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The vertebrae are the small bones which the spinal column is comprised of. These individual functioning units are the basis of motion in the torso. They connect to and glide on each other by way of a spinal disc and 2 facet joints. Spinal muscles and ligaments attach to each vertebrae to permit movement.
Located in the rear of each vertebrae is a hollowed out portion called the spinal canal which encases the spinal cord as it descends from the brain, much like beads on a string. At each vertebral level, spinal "nerve roots" peel away from the spinal cord. Small openings formed by adjacent vertebrae provide a pathway for these delicate nerve roots to exit to the rest of the body. These openings are referred to as the intervertebral foramen or IVF and are a common location for nerve irritation.
When a vertebrae becomes misaligned or fixated in relation to neighboring vertebrae, chiropractors call it a vertebral subluxation. In addition to pain, reduced range of motion and muscle spasms, these subluxations may also produce nerve irritation and interference either by mechanical pressure or inflammatory biochemicals.
Doctors of chiropractic are the only health care professionals trained to detect and treat subtle vertebral abnormalities which occur in the spine.