Chiropractic FAQ’S

How Can Chiropractic Help You?

Chiropractic has helped millions worldwide suffering from all types of problems and not just back and neck ailments. Chiropractic works with the spinal column and it’s intimate relationship with the nervous system.  Remember, the nervous system influences all tissues and organs of the body.  By optimizing spinal column structure (which protects the spinal cord) and its biomechanics, irritation and stresses that are placed upon the nerves are removed and a healthy system can return its normal function.

Research studies have provided scientific evidence showing chiropractic care is not only effective in the treatment of back and neck ailments, but can also provide effective relief with children suffering from ear infections, women suffering from dysmenorrhea (painful menses), and a number of other seemingly “non-spinal” conditions. While it’s not prudent to guarantee relief from such conditions or claim to “treat” these conditions, chiropractic has successfully helped millions of individuals with all sorts of health conditions by positively affecting the nervous system.

What is a Subluxation?

 A subluxation is the result of spinal bones (vertebrae) that are positioned incorrectly and have irregular motion.  This affects the nerve communications between your brain and your body.  The vertebrae has lost its normal position and/or motion in relation to the neighboring vertebrae.


A subluxation is a stress response. As a result, muscles can go into spasm and the spinal bones can lock up or not move properly. When this occurs the adjacent nerves are compromised which interferes with the control and regulation of your body. The communication between the brain and parts of your body then is not functioning at its best.  A disruption in communication from the nerves can be the underlying cause of many health problems, not just a pain in your back or a headache.

When the the motion between vertebrae is not normal, wear and tear is accelerated on the surrounding spinal muscles, ligaments, discs, joint and other spinal tissues. Pain, tenderness to touch, inflammation, decreased spinal mobility, and muscle spasm and hypertonicity will eventually follow.  Once nerve functioning is compromised, communication within the body becomes less effective jeopardizing the overall health and wellness of the individual.

Through research, it has been identified that there are 5 components of the vertebral subluxation.  These are also known as the subluxation complex.  Each component of the subluxation must be eliminated for proper healing to occur and for a successful rehabilitation process.  It is important that patients understand that PAIN is a very poor indicator of how you are healing.  Pain generally subsides well before tissue healing and proper spinal movement is reached.

The 5 components of a Subluxation Complex are:

  1. Kinesiopathology – the loss of normal vertebral positioning and motion in relation to neighboring vertebrae
  2. Myopathology – pathological changes occurring in the spinal musculature which includes hypertonicity, spasming, fibrosis, weakness and improper or inappropriate functioning
  3. Neuropathology – irritation or injury to spinal nerve roots through compression, stretch or more commonly chemical irritation from nearby spinal structures
  4. Histopathology – pathological changes which occur to the spinal tissues such as abnormal bony growths off the vertebral bodies and joints, fibrosis and adhesions of spinal muscles and ligaments, as well as dehydration and degeneration of spinal discs
  5. Pathophysiology – the biochemical changes taking place in the spinal region which include inflammatory biochemicals from injured tissues and biochemical waste products.

What Causes Subluxations?

Vertebral subluxations have a many different causes, all of which a person can encounter every day. These causes can be described in terms of physical, chemical, and emotional causes.
Physical causes include acute trauma to the body, repetitive motions affecting the spine, bad postural habits (sleep, standing, sitting, lifting), workstation habits that are not ergonomic, and weak or imbalanced spinal musculature.

Chemical causes include poor dietary and nutritional practices, drug and alcohol use and abuse, and the ingestion of chemical toxins in the foods we eat, air we breath, and water we drink. Chemicals which are harmful to the body decrease the body’s ability to function optimally and the ability to successfully adapt to and withstand internal and external stresses – making us more susceptible to spinal subluxations.

Emotional causes refer to stress. Excessive stress or inadequate stress management skills can effect  the body’s ability to sustain normal functions. The impact of emotional stress is well documented and has been shown to have devastating effects on the immune system, making the body susceptible to injury and disease.

How Are Subluxations Corrected?

Doctors of chiropractic learn a number of different chiropractic techniques and procedures to correct vertebral subluxations. Most of the procedures involve the application of a chiropractic spinal adjustment to the affected vertebrae.  This adjustment involves a quick but gentle corrective force into the “subluxated” spinal vertebrae, typically delivered manually by the doctors hands or can be performed through the use of a specialized tool.  Subluxations may require multiple treatments in order for the joint in the effected vertebral complex to heal.  The surrounding tissues also require time to accept this new position of “normal” as they typically have been in an adaptive or compensating position.

How do I know if I have a Vertebral Subluxation?

There are a number of signs and symptoms that may be associated with the vertebral subluxation.  Persons not experiencing pain or other ailments may not be subluxation free.  Pain is a poor indicator that there is something wrong with the body.  Pain is a symptom which often occurs later in the process of boney or soft tissue change, and damage has already started to occur to the vertebral complex.

Some of the sign and symptoms include:

  • neck pain, tenderness, soreness and stiffness
  • back pain, tenderness, soreness and stiffness
  • headaches
  • dizziness or balance problems
  • spinal muscle spasm, tightness or weakness
  • reduced spinal mobility
  • pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • joint pain and stiffness
  • low energy
  • poor overall state of health
  • poor tissue healing

How long will care take?

Treatment frequency has many variables.  Each person and each condition heal differently.

Newer injuries, if treated appropriately and immediately (in the acute phase), tend to respond to fewer visits assuming that major tissue injury has not occurred. Many of these first time injuries can be managed in as little as 3 to 4 visits. Conditions that have been present for greater than 3 months and also recurring conditions are generally more stubborn and difficult to manage. The spinal segments and surrounding tissue have adapted and made compensations in order for one’s body to function.  Healing time to re-educate these chronic conditions may require 12 visits or more.

It is important to remember, the longer a condition has been around, the longer it will take to heal and return back to functioning normal.  Periodic chiropractic care helps decrease the stress on the spine and nerves, reduces the recurrence of old injuries, minimizes degenerative changes, and prevents new injuries from developing.  Overall, regular chiropractic care enhances health and wellness.


Dr. Shanna Bissonette, DC, is a chiropractor in Mammoth Lakes and has a satellite office in Bishop. She treats patients with acute and chronic pain presentations, headaches, neck and lower back pain regularly.  Her healthcare approach is to focus on the musculoskeletal and nervous system and the effects of these disorders on general health.