Why am I not getting better despite repeated adjustments, and why do my vertebrae keep “slipping out”?

This is a common question raised in the comments section of the blog.

Of course it is unsafe to give out individualised health advice to anyone over a blog, so the best way for me to handle this question is as a generalised post. Im notentirely happy with this post- it wanders a little too much for my liking, but this is a complex question.

I’ve been wondering myself– it has taken me 9 years to get to the point where I am now, and much of the improvement has really only consolidated in the last 2 months.

Firstly an acute injury is very different to one that has been carried since childhood.

I would guess that most acute injuries would settle back easily once corrected.


However most of us have carried the injury for a long while and there are issues with mild scoliosis, often localised arthritis and muscle spasm, and multilevel subluxations, often with flat feet and pelvic tilt. Any longstanding atlas issue will usually be accompanied by issues at the sacro-iliac joints, the feet , the thoracic spine, and often the jaw joint. The question then becomes one of how many need individual attention? Ive needed work on all but the jaw joint.

The posture chronically adopted will open some facet joints more and predispose them to go out of alignment.

Specific work to loosen up individual muscles is very helpful- and learning to self apply trigger point therapy or acupressure will save a lot of money.

I have used the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook- which is comprehensive and available as a cheap Kindle App and also an anatomy app called 3D 4 medical Muscle System Pro.

I have found that particularly valuable as it helpfully peels away the muscle layers and makes it very clear which level the problem is likely to be at.


One other comment I would make is that many of us, myself included, talk of the vertebrae “slipping out of place again”. To some extent I guess that is true— given the instability in my spine over the past 55 years there has to be some wear and tear predisposing to things slipping out of place. As a rule though I am led to understand that only usually happens when there is either loss of intervertebral disc space, or posture has become so poor that the facet joints are nearly fully open at the best of times. (That is more of an issue in the neck- where the facet joints open wider).

So in most cases the vertebrae are pulled out of place not slipping> The pull can come from tense muscles guarding other areas:A problem in one part of the spine can cause trouble elsewhere– ie for myself- pain in the right mid thoracic will cause tension in the cervicocostalis muscle, and THAT will cause reactivation of some of the subluxations in my neck ( the muscle attaches to the rear of the transverse processes of C3/4/5 and the net pull caused bowstringing of the cervical spine and a tendency to anterior subluxations at C6/7 and C7/T1).

Sometimes the pull can come from impaired orientation reflexes:  The functional neurology work I have done has demonstrated issues such as a tendency to rotate to the left- because my acoustic attention reflexes are neglected on the right. We have corrected that and it is no longer a problem.

Equally I developed a chronic pain syndrome that turned out to be purely a feedback loop within the medial pain pathways in the brain. Until that was identified it caused enormous trouble with chronic muscle spasm making everything worse, but it resolved within a couple of weeks of functional neurology treatment once it was identified 2 months ago.

These are also abnormal brain reflexes related to balance, coordination, orientation reflexes, abnormal brain reflexes related to the autonomic nervous system, often leading to low brain blood flow when upright, or to unpredictable emotional responses.

The autonomic reflexes have been a particularly tricky one to nail- and they apply as much to atlas problems as to ADHD. They cause a difficulty in regulating cerebral blood flow when transitioning from flat to upright. . This often translates to having a lower cerebral blood pressure when sitting and being on the edge of a fight or flight response (orthostatic intolerance). However,the wrong stimulus (ie getting too hot and sweaty on a humid day for instance, can trigger a collapse- where blood pressure drops and in my case, I feel a little sweaty and vague. I usually feel back pain with this-and “coathanger pain in the upper neck or back” is well known as a symptom of orthostatic intolerance.

I had had some inkling that this was going on, but the last time it happened to me (the day before I wrote this post) I happened to be starting with a back that was painfree and in good position.

This time, however, the outcome was obvious, as I had had my back nicely lined up and no pain- then the collapse re-activated all the currently troublesome subluxations and it took me 30 minutes to disentangle them.

So I do not think the vertebrae just randomly drop out of place- there has to be a trigger of some sort- and the action is driven by the muscles- which either pull the spine in the wrong direction, or fail to maintain core tone.

Other triggers that I can think of include being unfit, sitting too much in poor posture, emotional traumas and intestinal dysbiosis. (the latter is common as atlas problems interfere with normal gut contractions).

However, recovery from a significant subluxation problem takes time, patience and careful observation. My clinical training did not prepare me to do what was needed to get on top of my problems, and I have had to educate myself- relying on resources such as the ones I posted and repeatedly asking questions.

I have found functional neurology treatments extremely helpful- and also understanding the complex nature of the feedback loops which maintain the problem.


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2 Responses to Why am I not getting better despite repeated adjustments, and why do my vertebrae keep “slipping out”?

  1. Michele Lyons says:

    Hi there

    I currently am seeing a chiropractor for a jammed occipital I don’t really think it’s working as my neck and shoulders are so tight is there another way to fix this without chiropractic

    • MindBody says:

      A good question. Though I had a great initial response, Ive had similar problems myself.

      It is not the purpose of this blog to give medical advice, nor would that be legal, so it may be best to address this from the point of view of my own experience:

      I have recently had a major improvement with my issues- but it took years to get to the bottom of it.

      I was working with a model of muscle tension leads to subluxation and muscle tension + subluxation send “screwy” information into the brain creating a positive feedback loop.

      Well that was ok- and I was doing my best between appointments working with an anatomy app (3D4Medical Muscle System Pro) plus “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook”.

      However there still seemed to be a barrier dragging me back to dysfunction.

      About 8 weeks ago the penny dropped- the neck alignment problems were twisting the membranes around my upper spinal cord and both creating tension that maintained the problem and interfering with the blood supply to my brainstem- causing a host of symptoms.

      I had some craniosacral work done with immense benefit, but it relapsed after a plane flight- it turned out that the atlas was so unstable that the vibrations from the flight shook it loose.

      So- repeat craniosacral and learning to do it to myself between appointments, along with yoga, have been transformative. Im feeling very much better than any time in the past 15 years. This will all be written up into a new post soon, with references and special emphasis on the yoga- but in any case this is what is working for me and offering that is maybe the most useful thing I can do.

      So the big lessons here are to look for hidden factors that may be maintaining or re-exacerbating the problem, and look to do what you can to relieve the problem yourself. You need professional help with that and so much depends on you being able to give a good account to your practitioner. Body mindfulness- a meditation technique is very helpful.

      One of the really hard things about these problems is that they leave you so fuzzy headed you cant explain what is going on.

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