Subluxation and Stress Hormones

Stress Image with cracks in white wall

Subluxation can increase stress hormone levels, contributing to chronic illness.

One main effect of subluxation is a change to the ratio of nerve signals that get to the brain to be processed and acted upon – specifically an increase in the body ‘stress’ signals that tell the brain of actual or possible harm.

The most immediate effect of this is a fast reflex response around the area where the signal came from, leading to rigid tight muscles clamping down in a ‘protection’ mode and squeezing the blood vessels in the tissues around the joint as well.

These changes further alter joint-function and can become a loop that feeds on itself, making the local effects (and the next-level effects) worse with time.

The next effect is a general ‘dialing up’ of the brain’s stress reaction – initiating or in some cases prolonging or making worse the ‘fear/protection’ (historically called ‘fight or flight’) stress reaction and often an increase in the perception or intensity of pain.

This happens because when the ‘stress’ signals enter the spinal cord, they are not stopped in their tracks (or at least modified) as they often are when joints are working correctly. So many more of the stress messages travel straight up to the main ‘distribution hub’ of the brain (thalamus), which in turn immediately fires these ‘warning’ messages off to many other areas of the brain to be responded to in different ways with different results.

“The chiropractic subluxation complex may now be defined and described as a definitive clinical entity having broad and deep implications…the absence of a subluxation complex, also serves as a model for health and homeostasis.”

– Dishman, R. Review of the literature supporting a scientific basis for the chiropractic subluxation complex . JMPT 1985; 8(3)

One of the first responses is the brain initiating the chronic release of stress hormones, mainly from the adrenal glands which in turn is a major factor in changes to whole-body function and the increased likelihood of dysfunction and sickness throughout the whole body…one reason why it is so beneficial (some would say, essential) to be regularly checked for subluxations!

The first step in that process in the message hits the stress and anxiety control centre in the brain, which then causes the brain’s nerve/hormone junction box to respond. The stress and anxiety centre can also ‘hold on’ to the signal and form a memory in another part of the brain which will often in the future respond at the wrong time or in the wrong situation! The nerve/hormone junction box creates both a fast and a slower (more ongoing) response.

The fast response fires through specific nerves straight down through the automatic part of the spinal cord to the adrenal glands and makes them flood the body with stress hormone. (In addition, it also fires off messages to other centres in the brain which change how other automatic parts of the nervous system control the body’s organ systems)


The slower response causes the long-term activation of the ‘master hormone gland’ of the body which sends slower controlling hormones through the body, but also mainly to target the adrenal glands as well.

Subluxations are a health problem not a back problem!

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