Are your nerves compromised?

Neck after neck of tight, cranky muscles made me wonder the other day: How do nearby muscles respond to spinal misalignment? Misalignment of the vertebrae is also called subluxation. I decided to find the answer for you and for me by asking our good Dr. Rion Zimmerman, D.C. Dr. Zimmerman runs a thriving family chiropractic practice in La Cañada.

Me: If vertebrae are out of alignment, how do the muscles surrounding or attaching to those vertebrae respond?

Dr. Z: I define a subluxation as an unhealthy neurological pattern or habit that creates a physical, chemical and/or emotional response. The muscles’ response could be considered a physical response and what the muscles do is increase in muscle tone, get tight or hard. This tonal increase is based on a response within the autonomic nervous system known as “fight or flight.”

Me: How do people usually experience or feel spinal misalignment?

Dr. Z: A subluxation occurs in response to stress: physical, chemical or emotional. A basic way to break neurological symptoms down is through the three main types of nerves that create these symptoms. Sensory nerves which would respond with burning or sharp pain; motor nerves which would respond with lack of coordination or weakness; and the autonomic nervous system which would respond with symptoms to the organs all throughout the body, for example digestive or respiratory dysfunction.

Me: I have often heard people wonder if after chiropractic adjustments, tight muscles just pull the vertebrae out of alignment again. Is there a negative loop that needs to be broken here? If so, how is it broken?

Dr. Z: Remember the subluxation is an unhealthy neurological pattern or habit in the body. So it is not the muscle pulling out the vertebrae but the nerve that is not properly activating the muscle. After an adjustment the nerve will fire but with time the old negative pattern will force symptoms to return. Generally there is a recommended treatment plan that involves multiple chiropractic adjustments. These multiple chiropractic adjustments are recommended to help create a new healthier pattern in the nervous system.

Me: How does targeted stretching and exercise play a positive role in our bodies being able to hold alignment properly, naturally, or effortlessly?

Dr. Z: A new healthier pattern is developed in the nervous system through chiropractic adjustments. It is then up to the patient to help maintain this pattern with a customized exercise and nutritional plan.

Me: What differences are there in misalignment of vertebrae in the neck, mid-back and low-back, if any?

Dr. Z: Chiropractic is holistic because of its effect on the nervous system. Each part of the spine houses a different part of the spinal cord which distributes to different muscles, organs and cells. An extreme example of this would be a severe spinal cord injury. If the cervical portion (neck) of the spinal cord is ruptured then everything below it is affected, both arms and legs along with all organs. If the lumbar (lower back) portion is ruptured than both legs and all organs that correlate with those levels are affected.

Dr. Zimmerman is a chiropractor specializing in preventative, hands-on care in La Cañada. He can be reached at 818-952-0172 and

Thanks Doc!