Making Sense Of Back Pain Terminology: Brighton Chiropractors Explain

Have you ever been alarmed by online information about back pain and wondered if it applies to you? Terms like ‘spinal misalignment’ or ‘dislocation’ are sometimes used very loosely on the internet, which can lead to misunderstandings. You might be left wondering how a vertebra (which is firmly attached to all the other vertebrae in your spine) can get itself out of ‘alignment’? Could vertebrae ever dislocate themselves? Worrying ideas! But the last thing we want at Sundial want is for you to feel anxious about your back. So read on to make sense of these terms and find out what’s really likely to be causing the pain. Better still, read about what we can do to help.


First of all, ‘spinal misalignment’ isn’t a term commonly used at Sundial because there are very few circumstances where vertebrae do actually become misaligned. Rare conditions such as Spondylolisthesis, which occurs in only 5% of the population, is an example, where a kind of ‘slippage’ occurs as a result of stress fractures and degenerative changes. You might also notice that there are a number of terms beginning with the word ‘spondyl’ (which means spine or backbone). Spondylitis is an arthritic condition which affects the places where ligaments and tendons attach to the bone, mainly affecting the under 35s. On the other hand, Spondylosis (also known as Degenerative Disc or Degenerative Joint Disease, DDD or DJD) is a condition that most of us develop over time. You can have it and not even know you have it (experiencing no pain at all!).

Over the age of 60 years, 90% of us will have some measurable age-related reduction in our discs, those cartilage cushions between the vertebrae. This eventually leads to the formation of bony lumps (osteophytes) on the edges of the vertebrae, which can impinge on the nerves passing out of the spinal column. This nerve constriction can definitely cause pain but, interestingly, an x-ray might show severe degenerative changes but the patient might feel no pain. Chiropractic care in this case addresses loss of mobility by improving joint flexibility in the stiffest areas.


Another term that might lead to alarm is ‘dislocation’. In fact, spinal or facet dislocations are severe injuries caused by trauma, such as a car crash. Hopefully, it’s not something any of us will ever come across. On the other hand, a ‘dislocated disc’ can be another way of describing a slipped, prolapsed or herniated disc (you can read up on this condition in one of our previous blogs :

Another common condition is Facet Joint Syndrome or Dysfunction, which affects the two facet joints at the back of each vertebra. Facets are cushioned with cartilage, lubricated by synovial fluid and covered by a joint capsule. The nerves leading to your limbs from the spinal cord go past these facet joints. Healthy facet joints slide and glide comfortably against each other but any swelling or injury here causes pain.

Facet Joint Syndrome is the root cause of a lot of lower back pain so you may well have seen these words on your diagnosis and treatment plan from Sundial. Treatment consists of mobilisation, spinal adjustments, exercise and self-care. Your chiropractor will give you advice on how to manage the condition. The good news is that those of us who are older, sedentary and suffering from lower back pain are precisely the group who get the maximum benefit from regular, planned chiropractic treatments.

So don’t be alarmed by what you read on the internet – come in for a check up at Sundial to find out exactly how to get better fast.