What is a Cervical Subluxation?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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When a bone shifts out of its normal position it is said to be subluxed. Cervical subluxation occurs when vertebral or spinal bone alignment is altered in the neck area. This misplaced bone can create an abnormal strain on the surrounding area including the soft tissues and nerves.

The pressure placed on internal sturctures such as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments by cervical subluxation can cause pain. Pain from a slight change in alignment can range from an ache or tenderness to tightness. A more serious cervical bone shift can also cause impaired movement. Difficulties with motion may be limited to the neck or may travel throughout the body.

Mild cervical subluxation can be triggered by poor posture or the body mechanics of everyday activities. Excessive strain on the neck because of improper lifting technique, for example, can also pull the cervical vertebrae out of position. When a misaligned bone bears down on a nerve, the pain can radiate or travel throughout the neck, shoulder and head area. Pain can also consist of irregular sensations such as a prickling or stabbing feeling. The area may also feel asleep or dead.


A subluxation in the neck can also occur as a result of an injury to the spinal bones or spinal cord. Symptoms can range from migraine headaches to problems with pain or irregular sensations in the upper back and shoulder. An alteration in bone alignment may also be caused by an injury such as a fall or car accident. Depending on the location and severity of the injury, partial or full paralysis of the body may result.

A significant cervical subluxation closer to the trunk can result in paraplegia or partial paralysis. These subluxations are usually caused by injury, which can lead to nerve impairment and damage to the spinal cord. Symptoms of paraplegia include a reduction or loss of sensation to the lower body. It may also result in the inability to move the legs. The incapacity to move may also extend into the lower torso or trunk area.

If a similar injury occurs closer to the head, it can cause sensation abnormalities and paralysis to the entire body. The damage, called quadraplegia, sustained may be complete or incomplete. A complete injury means the movement loss is permanent. When the injury is incomplete, there may be some ability to move in the area affected. There also may be some feeling in the area. With an incomplete cervical subluxation resulting in spinal cord damage there is a possibility for the body to fully or partially recover after the inflammation process diminishes.


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