Posted by: drkole | May 4, 2010

Subluxation Degeneration and the Cervical Curve

The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord and controls every function of the body. The spinal cord is a direct path to the brain transmitting and receiving billions of nerve messages a second.  It is so vital that it is encased and protected by 24 vertebral bones stacked on top of each other that make up the spinal column. Pairs of nerves exit between each intervertebral foramina sending messages to and controlling every function of the body. There are three major sections of the spine: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. Each section has its own distinctive curve making the spine look like an S-shape, and it is balanced to evenly distribute the weight of the human body. This is important because it allows the human spinal column to support 10 times more axial weight (vertical pressure) than it would be able to if it were straight. The cervical and lumbar spine both have lordotic curves (convex anterially), and the thoracic spine has a kyphotic curve (concave anterially). In this blog I’m keeping the majority of focus on the cervical spine(c-spine), and the importance of the cervical curve. Due to its mobility, small size and heavy load the cervical spine is the most likely area of the spine for malfunctions that can create health problems that effect the entire body.

 The cervical portion of the spine is located in the neck and is one of the most important areas in our spinal column. Damage to the nerves in the c-spine can cause a wide range of problems including, in extreme cases, paralysis and even death. As in all mammals, the cervical spine is composed of seven vertebrae protecting the delicate spinal cord and nerves. Between each vertebrae in the body, except for C1 and C2, there is a disc of cartilage with a jelly like center designed to absorb impact and keep the vertebrae from grinding together. The spinal column is stabilized by ligaments and its surrounding muscle holding all of the vertebrae in place. The cervical portion of the spine is designed to support the human head which weighs 8-10 lbs, about the same weight as a bowling ball, and the lordotic curve in the c-spine is extremely important in supporting and absorbing the weight of the head. Without the lordotic curve of the c-spine, the head would fall forward. This forward head posture is not only very unattractive; it can be very damaging to our health.

 With good posture and an intact cervical curve, the head should be balanced directly above the center of gravity. With poor posture and/or the loss of cervical curve forward head posture can occur. With forward head posture the head is positioned in front of the center of gravity increasing the stress and weight placed on the cervical spine. To calculate the increase in the stress load that forward head posture places on the c-spine, you can multiply the weight of the head by the number of inches the head is held in front of the center of gravity. For example if a person had a 10 lb head and a 2 inch forward head posture, they would feel the strain in their neck as if they were carrying 20lbs. Is it any wonder that after a day spent slouching in front a computer for 8 hrs, most people complain of neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, and much more?

 Pain is only one symptom of forward head posture. With the weight of the head now in front of the center of gravity, the cervical curve can be lost, and even reverse into a kyphotic curve. With enough time this reversal can become permanent. As you can see in the Vertebral Subluxation and Nerve Chart (click  to see) the nerves of the C-spine run into the head, face, arms, hands, and control the functions of several organs. Impingement of these nerves have many side effects.  So how do you prevent forward head posture and the loss of your vital cervical curve? Practice good posture and stay subluxation free. Subluxations of the cervical spine can lead to loss of the cervical curve and contribute to forward head posture. 

In order to understand how this occurs we need to understand what vertebral subluxations are and how they can cause damage to your spine and central nervous system. Vertebral subluxations are what chiropractors look for and seek to correct. They occur when one or more of the spinal vertebrae move out of its natural alignment. Once this happens it puts stress on the surrounding vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, discs, and nerves and increases deterioration. Since there are many affects, it is referred to as the Vertebral Subluxation Complex.

 There are five main components to the vertebral subluxation Complex:

  • Spinal Kinesiopathology : Normal vertebral positioning is lost and motion in relation to neighboring vertebrae is restricted, decreasing the overall ability for the spine to twist and bend normally.
  • Myopathology : Changes occur to the muscles surrounding the spine which include atrophy, muscle spasms, fibrosis, scar tissue, and faulty functioning. 
  • Neuropathology : Compression, stretching and irritation can cause damage to spinal nerve roots. Once nerve functioning is compromised, communication within the body becomes less successful, affecting the overall health of the body. 
  • Histopathology : Swelling, inflammation, and soft tissue damage can occur as well as disc degeneration, bulges, herniation and tearing.  
  • Pathophysiology :  Spinal erosion, bone spurs and other bony growths can form causing spinal vertebrae to fuse together.

 Below are lateral view x-ray images showing a normal healthy cervical spine, and the three phases of subluxation degeneration. X-rays are the best way for your doctor to determine which phase you are in.

Subluxations have many possible causes including:

  • Physical : Physical causes include acute trauma such as whiplash or falls, repetitive motions, poor posture, improper workstations, and weak or imbalanced spinal musculature.
  • Chemical: Chemical causes include poor nutrition, drug/alcohol abuse, and consuming toxins from food (Please refer to my previous blog on the importance of eating organic), water or air. All of these things harm our body’s ability to function, weakening our ability to handle stresses placed on the body and making us more susceptible to injury, illness, and disease.
  • Emotional: Emotional stress weakens the body’s immune system and can cause very negative effects to our overall health making the body more susceptible to disease and injury. (Please refer to my previous blog on stress)

 The body wants to remain in balance and combat gravity and axial pressure. With subluxation and or loss of curve in the cervical spine, the weight of the head is no longer distributed evenly over the center of gravity and the rest of the spine must work harder to resist the downward pull of gravity. In order to compensate for the loss of balance, other areas it the thoracic and lumbar spine may shift out of natural alignment in an attempt to restore balance. Left uncorrected, the damage to your health can continue to multiply.

The science of chiropractic is founded on the premise that a properly functioning nervous system is the foundation of health, and that the structural integrity of the spinal column must be maintained in order to facilitate optimal nervous system transmission and communication. Doctors of Chiropractic detect and correct vertebral subluxations by physically adjusting the spine to restore normal function and balance which allows the nervous system to send and receive information. This allows the inherent healing potential of the body to best express itself. Chiropractic adjustments restore the normal structure of the spine and maximize the posture of the human frame – a process that is unique to the Chiropractic profession. Drugs can only cover up the symptoms that can be associated with spinal conditions. Surgery should be a last resort option, and even though it sometimes becomes necessary, it cannot correct and restore the optimal structure of the spine in the same way that chiropractic can.

 Below I’ve added a video you may find interesting

Dr John Kole can be contacted at 714-283-2288. Or visit his website at www.ocwellnessonline.com

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  2. will surgery help degeneration subluxation


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