Can a spinal bone really ‘go out of place’?

One of the common misconceptions about the spine is that your bones can ‘go out of place’. While true dislocations or sub-luxations (partial dislocations) do occur as a result of trauma, these injuries are serious and often require urgent medical attention. We now understand that static alignment of one vertebra in relation to another really doesn’t have much to do with clinical symptoms like pain. On the contrary, we also know that there is a large percentage of the population that have poor alignment seen on imaging or structural analysis that have very little or no pain and great function.

So what does happen to the spine?

There is a myriad of possible spinal problems and each should be treated individually. In many cases spinal problems develop slowly over time without any significant signs or symptoms. Our muscles are inherently very strong, especially those located around the spinal column, so the reason the back (or neck) might spontaneously become painful has more to do with a loss of spinal control rather than any loss of strength.

The human spine is an incredibly complex and flexible structure that requires precision control. If this unconscious moment-by-moment regulation is inaccurate, or just not being understood by our brain and central nervous system we can easily misjudge the appropriate action required to stabilise the area. The result can be tissue overload causing sprains and strains or other musculoskeletal related injuries. A spine with good control is like a well-trained orchestra playing together in perfect sync making beautiful music. A spine that has poor control is like an orchestra that is out of practice and haven’t played together in a long time making music that sounds disjointed and out of tune. It is not about the individual instrument, or even the skill of the individual players, it is about the coordination and the way they all play together.

Therefore it is more helpful to understand how your body processes movement relative to its internal environment and the world around us, rather than simply looking at one boney position relative to another.