What Is a Subluxation?


If you go to a chiropractor, one of the key conditions the doctor will be looking for is what we refer to as a “subluxation.” The term may be unfamiliar, but it has been used in the chiropractic field for over a century. In chiropractic, “subluxation” has traditionally been used to refer to a misalignment of the vertebrae resulting in interference with nerve transmission, thereby impacting body function. The definition has been broadened in recent years to include any distortion or imbalance anywhere in the body, not just the spinal column, that interferes with the conduction of nerve impulses or other body structures, negatively affecting your health.

How Chiropractors See Subluxation

Chiropractors undergo years of training to identify, treat and prevent musculoskeletal disorders without drugs or surgery. To a chiropractor, a subluxation is more than a joint out of whack—it represents a constellation of interconnected events. These changes, known as "components," are a complex interaction of bone, nerve, muscle, soft tissue and biochemical factors that can affect your entire well-being.

A vertebral subluxation can put pressure on or interfere with overall nerve function throughout the body. Many chiropractors talk about optimizing health by making sure your nervous system is free from interference (subluxations) that could potentially result in dysfunction or disease of the body.

Although chiropractors do not specifically treat disorders of the organs and internal structures, we aim to treat the spine and other musculoskeletal structures so the nervous system can function optimally. Nerves travel through the spinal column to and from the rest of the body, so if certain vertebrae are out of alignment, you may suffer from a problem in a different area of the body. For example, it may not occur to most people that digestive problems could be linked to vertebrae of the lower back. However, nerves that exit the lower spine (vertebrae L1 through L5) can affect the large intestines, abdomen, bladder, reproductive organs and other parts of the body.

When interference to nerve transmission is removed, not only may pain and inflammation be relieved in specific areas such as the back, neck or extremities (arms, hands, legs and feet), but full expression of the spinal nerves that carry signals to every part of the body may be restored.

What Chiropractors Look For

During an examination, chiropractors carefully check your spine, looking for key signs that indicate dysfunction. This can be done by feeling for vertebral movement in the spine, taking x-rays or other images, looking at range of motion and testing muscle strength. We look for harmful changes in tissue caused by misaligned or locked joints, including:

  • Hyperemia: excess blood in an area due to an obstruction that prevents normal blood flow
  • Congestion: areas in the muscles where toxins develop due to joint dysfunction
  • Edema: swelling in tissues due to fluid leaking from the body’s capillaries, the small blood vessels
  • Minute hemorrhages: small amounts of bleeding from the blood vessels
  • Local ischemia: muscle pain caused by lack of blood flow, which can make the muscle tender to the touch
  • Atrophy: shrinkage or wasting of muscle tissue as a result of disease, disuse, surgery or other conditions.
  • Tissue rigidity: adhesions causing stiffness in the ligaments, tendons and muscles rather than the bones of the joints or spine
  • Inflammation: irritations caused by nerve impingement produced in the subluxation

How Chiropractors Treat Subluxation

We treat subluxations most frequently through spinal manipulations (specific and precise manual adjustments) especially designed to unlock and realign the vertebra and relieve pressure on the nerve and surrounding tissue. During an adjustment, you may hear a crack or pop, which happens when gases in the joint fluid are released. After an adjustment, you should have more movement in the joint. Chiropractors are highly trained to deliver this procedure safely and effectively, and it has been clinically shown to help with many musculoskeletal conditions, including:

  • back pain
  • migraine and neck-related headaches
  • neck pain
  • pain and lack of mobility in the joints of the extremities
  • whiplash disorders

Manual therapies trace back thousands of years to different cultures, including the Kung Fu masters of Asia. The modern-day chiropractic profession was developed in the United States about 125 years ago, and spinal adjustments to correct subluxations have been a key component from the beginning. Over the decades, chiropractors have refined and added to their techniques and pursued clinical research to evaluate their practices. Chiropractic therapy to treat subluxations can aid in the restoration and maintenance of health as well as the prevention of many kinds of pain.

If you have stiffness, soreness or pain in your joints, neck or back and want to avoid surgery or drugs, a chiropractic examination can determine if a subluxation is the cause. We have many therapies that can get you moving and feeling better!

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I've been coming to see Dr. Bob since 1984 for my back pain. After each visit, the vast improvement lasts about one whole month. Even after all these years, Dr. Bob continues to provide outstanding care for me, my children, and my grandchildren. I've referred several people to HealthWise Chiropractic, so they too can see the results I have. My favorite part of my visits is the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and doctors and, of course, the results I get that improve my daily living."
    Danny S.
  • "About ten years ago I was at the gym, I bent over and couldn't get up, the pain was horrible. I contacted Healthwise and Dr. Mike gave me an emergency appointment that evening. He did a complete physical and x-ray before he started any treatment. After my first treatment I was able to stand up and walk with minimal pain. With a few visits I was back to normal. I continued treatments as needed for the next several years.
    I see Dr. Bob regularly to stay fit and pain-free. He tests my strength and weakness to determine the best treatment. Our open discussion led him to help my acid reflux. I now exercise and walk as is essential for a septuagenarian.
    I told Dr. Bob that I was starting to get knee pain that I thought was arthritis; I didn't think chiropractic care could help. He told me about new equipment to help. I look forward to improvement.
    I was a skeptic of chiropractic care, now I would recommend HealthWise to anyone with chronic/simple pain. It worked for me. It can work for you!"
    Sherry B.
  • "I was very miserable with constant pain in my leg while knowing it had something to do with my back. My friend surprised me with an appointment with Dr. Bob. After being treated by Dr. Bob I knew right away it was exactly what I needed. I learned a lot through my conversations with the doctor. I am really thankful to Dr. Bob and his staff."
    Ed L.
  • "I had a very limited understanding of chiropractic care until I tried it for the first time 12 years ago. I came in with severe pain in my neck, which prohibited me from moving my head. I was greeted by a kind staff, had an exam and x-rays done on my first appointment followed by an adjustment. I felt so much better after my first adjustment and by following the treatment plan my headaches and migraines improved. My overall health has improved because of chiropractic care. Dr. Bob helps make sure that I am taking the right supplements to optimize my health and fitness performance. They have helped me with allergies, knee and shoulder pain, and earaches. I had no idea when I began my chiropractic journey just how much help the doctors and staff at HealthWise would be at improving my quality of life."
    Britt H.
  • "I have been a patient at HealthWise Chiropractic for over 20 years. In the past and currently I am seeing Dr. Bob, however, I have seen all docs at Healthwise. My general issues are usually seasonally related to sinus and allergies. Recently I have been receiving treatment for my hip and lower back. Dr. Bob zeros in on trigger points and quickly relieves my pain. He is a wealth of knowledge and offers help and suggestion on my health issues. The staff is friendly and helpful. I leave feeling better and I believe helps to keep my body aligned and energized. I have also come in after falls, injuries and surgeries. I truly believe my adjustments at the time added to a quicker recovery."
    Liz B.
  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Bob for two and half months. . I see him for an adjustment every two weeks. I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time in January 2021 while working in Florida for my continued lower back pain and chronic bilateral hip bursitis. Because my pain was mostly relieved with continued adjustments, I decided to continue with treatment when returning to Wisconsin. I have been very happy with my continued pain relief/adjustments at HealthWise. I highly recommend anyone with chronic back and neck pain to try chiropractic adjustments here at HealthWise. It will make your life better."
    Marianne V.
  • "Really enjoyed the different things that they can do for you and your pain management. Would highly recommend."
    Rhiannon P.
  • "I enjoy coming, getting readjusted and any additional therapies. It has made my life healthier and less stressful. If I have questions, they are answered at that visit. The staff is very professional, personable and friendly. I always look forward to my next visit with them. I am glad to be part of Healthwise Chiropractic family:)"
    Marcella L.
  • "Dr. Mike is fantastic! He is very personable….will take time to really to your needs… I enjoy my visits…the maintenance has helped tremendously…..and he is there when the emergency pops up! Excellent Chiropractor!"
    Ann W.

Appointment Request

Schedule an Appointment Today

Our Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Find Out When We Are Open



9:00 am – 6:00 pm


9:00 am – 6:00 pm


9:00 am – 6:00 pm


9:00 am – 6:00 pm


9:00 am – 4:30 pm