Vertebral blockages are the most common causes of sharp back pain and represent the cause of most back problems. Back pain is particularly common in the western world and is a typical symptom, which is intensified in its intensity by too little movement, long periods of sitting and gentle rest.

In the so-called chiropractic the term vertebral block is also used for a vertebral subluxation. The vertebrae are fixed in an extreme position by cramping the stabilizing back muscles, but not completely "dislocated".

By definition, movement restrictions of the spine count through Inflammation or tumors are caused, not the vertebral blockages, but must be considered important Differential diagnosis be excluded.

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Although vertebral obstruction is very painful in most cases, vertebral obstruction is mostly a harmless phenomenon. The symptoms often go away after a few days without treatment. A doctor should only be consulted if the symptoms persist or if a serious illness is suspected.

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The spine is difficult to treat. On the one hand it is exposed to high mechanical loads, on the other hand it has great mobility.

The treatment of the spine (e.g. herniated disc, facet syndrome, foramen stenosis, etc.) therefore requires a lot of experience.
I focus on a wide variety of diseases of the spine.
The aim of any treatment is treatment without surgery.

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Which therapy achieves the best results in the long term can only be determined after looking at all of the information (Examination, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, etc.) be assessed.

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A vertebral blockage is often triggered by tense neck muscles.

The spine can be imagined as a moving chain, which consists of linearly lined up individual elements, which are connected to each other by stabilizing structures. The elements are presented by the individual vertebral bones, which are connected to one another via small joints (facet joints) and fixed by ligaments. The joints and ligaments allow the spine to move. Between the individual vertebral bodies are the intervertebral discs, which fulfill a shock absorber function and prevent direct contact between the vertebrae and reduce the forces generated by activity. Most of the time, it is a blockage of the small vertebral joints that transmit movement from one vertebral body to the next. Depending on which area of ​​the spine - whether the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine - is affected, there are various specific causes of the vertebral blockage.

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In most cases, the triggers are vertebral blockage fast, jerky movementsthat may be combined with a rotation. This can occur in the course of sporting activity, but in everyday life an unhappy movement, possibly in connection with cold drafts, can lead to the shooting pain. Already a awkward movement or lying down at night can lead to cramping of the small, deep-lying muscles that are responsible for fine-tuning the small vertebral joints and thus trigger a vertebral blockage.

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In many cases, one-sided muscle tension is evident Overloading the muscle, exposure to wind or cold, as well as incorrect or relieving postures a role. The muscle imbalance leads to a shift in the vertebra, the vertebra is "dislocated" and becomes stuck in its new position. Vertebral blockages are very often associated with stressful situations. Stress in everyday life or at work can lead to involuntary tension in the back muscles, which mainly occurs in the cervical spine. Long, one-sided postures can also lead to dislocated vertebrae. For example, through a bad sleeping position or one-sided shoulders sagging when sitting for a long time.

By a Weakening of the stabilizing structures vertebral blockage can occur. For example, overstretching the ligaments can lead to destabilization due to insufficient tension on the vertebrae, so that they are no longer fixed in the correct position; the vertebra is literally "dislocated" from the joint. Also degenerative changes in the spinesuch as wear on the intervertebral discs or arthrosis of the vertebral joint can lead to vertebral blockages. The vertebral bodies are shifted against each other and released from their normal structure, which leads to irritation of the joint capsule. This causes severe pain and limits the mobility of the spine.

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Another cause of vertebral blockages is posed Accidents especially accidents in which a Whiplash plays a role can lead to dislocated vertebrae.


A dislocated vertebra initially causes back pain in the affected area. Later, symptoms of the adjacent joints and extremities, such as hip pain, can also occur.

In most cases this is caused by a dislocated vertebra Restrictions on movement and Pain, which for ingestion a Relieving posture entice. The pain is often aggravated by certain movements, which the person concerned should avoid as much as possible. In most cases, acute vertebral blockage severely restricts mobility to one side due to pain. Often the spine can be rotated better to the opposite side. Relief postures in turn lead to one-sided muscle tension and hardening. They can usually be felt as individual painful points.
Should the Pain for example in arms or legs radiate or tingle or numbness occurs, a doctor should be consulted immediately. In this case it may be that Nerves constricted which may be an emergency situation.

Due to the vertebral block in the area of ​​the Lumbar spine symptoms of what is known as lumbago (lumbago) come with severe, shooting pain in the lumbar area. The sciatic nerve is often particularly affected. This large nerve pulls towards the leg and can be narrowed by the vertebral block (please refer: Sciatic nerve pinched), causing severe back pain radiating to the hip and leg.

Blocked vertebrae in the cervical spine can cause severe headaches as well as neck and shoulder pain. Pain when moving the head (turning, nodding, tilting), as well as radiating pain in the arms are also possible symptoms of vertebral blockages in the cervical area.


In diagnosing vertebral blockage, the taking of the medical history (anamnesis), the physical examination and the exclusion of serious diagnoses play a role. A vertebral blockage and the associated instability or misalignment of the spine is initially compensated for by the surrounding back muscles. This initially prevents stronger pain, but this leads to a relieving posture, which leads to tension in the muscles. The cramped muscles feel hard (Muscle tension) and in turn cause pain. Long lasting Misalignments of the spine (e.g. Scoliosis) due to an inclined pelvis can often be determined by inspecting the patient with the naked eye. If a vertebral block is left untreated for a long time, it happens chronic pain, because the muscles of one half of the body are overstretched while the other is shortened.

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With the help of imaging procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), a herniated disc can be diagnosed, inflammation and tumors can also be visualized and therefore excluded as possible differential diagnoses.

Blockages in different locations of the spine

Cervical spine

Vertebral blockages in the cervical spine are not uncommon. They are often the cause of a so-called cervical spine syndrome, which is a collective term for many neurological and orthopedic symptoms that originate in the cervical spine. These include sore throat and neck radiating to the arm, dizziness, headache, tingling and numbness in the arms. But ringing in the ears and visual disturbances are also possible symptoms of the cervical spine syndrome.

If you suspect a cervical spine syndrome behind your symptoms, then find out more:

  • Cervical spine syndrome: symptoms
  • Cervical spine syndrome: causes
  • Cervical spine syndrome: symptoms
  • Cervical spine syndrome: treatment

Possible causes of a vertebral blockage in the area are Incorrect loads or a Sedentary lifestyle. There is usually no recognizable organic cause for the vertebral blockage. To thoroughly clarify the causes of such symptoms, a physical examination of the cervical spine is performed, including a reflex test of the arms. If there are any abnormalities, imaging procedures such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used. Ultimately, if no organic cause such as a fracture or a herniated disc can be found, vertebral blockage is very likely.

In addition to the symptoms already mentioned, other complaints such as sleep disorders, depressive moods or nervousness can occur. If the suspicion is confirmed, you can stretching and moderate Move help to resolve the blockage quickly. If this does not succeed, an experienced physiotherapist or an orthopedic surgeon can help Mobilization of the cervical spine make. This is a muscle energy technique in which the longitudinal and transverse stretching of the back muscles is promoted. In passive mobilization, the physical therapist exerts the force. During active mobilization, he only guides the patient, who applies the necessary force himself.
A manipulation, the straightening of the cervical spine by appropriate hand movements, should never on your own respectively. This can only be justified by an experienced specialist who carefully weighs up the negative consequences, as important nerve tracts and blood vessels run along the cervical spine that could be damaged by such manipulation.

  • Exercises for a cervical spine syndrome
  • Physiotherapy for cervical spine syndrome

Thoracic spine

The causes of a thoracic vertebral block are basically the same as any other vertebral block.Mostly it results from a lack of exercise or an improper load. However, the symptoms that cause such a vertebral blockage of the thoracic spine are different from those of the cervical or lumbar spine.

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The pain is localized in the upper to lower back, depending on the level of the joint blockage. A radiation in the arms or legs is possible. Some sufferers also describe a headache or fatigue. Chest pain is rare. Some people complain of pain when inhaling or exhaling.

The therapy of such a vertebral block is based, as with other vertebral blocks, on physiotherapeutic approaches. As described, those affected can help themselves to release the blockage through light stretching exercises and moderate movement.

Read about this too Pain between the shoulder blades

Lumbar spine

The vertebral blockage of the Lumbar spine is a very common reason for Lumbago and shooting pains in the legs. Those affected feel similar complaintslike a light one disc prolapse in that area. However, no organic cause can be determined.

However, one should refrain from theories that put other internal diseases, such as digestive problems or bladder dysfunction in connection with a vertebral blockade of the lumbar spine, as no connection has been established so far.

The therapy of such a vertebral block consists in an adequate one physical therapythat releases the blockade with the help of mobilizing measures. An easy one strain and Move by the person affected can help to release the blockage even without physiotherapy. If this is not the case, however, a doctor should be consulted who can recommend physiotherapeutic measures.


Back exercises

Dislocated vertebrae or vertebral blockages lead to a restriction of movement, which is mainly caused by tense muscles and the relieved posture adopted. Despite the limitation, exercise is the best way to relieve the pain and discomfort. As a result, the displaced vertebrae can be pushed back into the correct position on their own if the back muscles are moved and strengthened accordingly. In principle, bed rest and rest is not advisable, as sufficient exercise is crucial to relieve the symptoms.

In some cases, the symptoms have persisted for a long time, which can lead to massive muscle tension. In this case, before starting exercise therapy, it can be useful to relieve the pain and tension by injecting painkillers or muscle-relaxing medication. A targeted back training can then begin without severe pain. The relaxing medication is particularly effective for vertebral blockages, as the tense muscles often prevent the blockage from being released.

In addition, professional massage and physiotherapy are helpful in stretching and loosening the ligaments and joints in order to move the vertebrae back into position. Physical activity in any form, be it walking, jogging, swimming or cycling, helps to relieve the discomfort, to strengthen the muscles and even to prevent a new vertebral block.
Heat applications are also well suited to relieve the pain and discomfort of a dislocated vertebra and, above all, to relax the cramped back muscles. Grain pillows, heat patches, e.g. ThermaCare®, or creams or ointments with the active ingredient capsaicin are used. The warmth promotes blood flow to the muscles and reduces pain.
Taking pain medication can also be useful to regain mobility.

If the vertebral block recurs or if symptoms do not improve, a doctor should be consulted to rule out other causes of the pain.

Read more on the topic: ThermaCare - heating patches

Chiropractic / Manual Medicine

Manual medicine is a therapeutic procedure with the aim of completely restoring the mobility of the affected joint and thus releasing the vertebral blockage. There are basically different approaches. Fall under Handgrip techniquesmovements that the therapist uses or guided movements actively performed by the patient.

  • Under manipulation one understands the release of the vertebral blockage with the help of a short movement impulse in the direction of the pain-free area (away from the affected, painful area).
  • In contrast, one understands by the Mobilization a careful stretching in the affected spine area, which is supposed to improve the movement (please refer: Mobilize thoracic spine).

A treatment in chiropractic is considered successful if the vertebral blockage can be solved immediately by the therapy and the mobility of the spine is immediately restored.

The methods of manual medicine have been scientifically investigated repeatedly. The current state of knowledge states that in comparison to conventional treatments such as drug pain therapy in connection with physiotherapy, only minimal advantages, but also no disadvantages of the treatment can be shown. There are contradicting results in the treatment of headaches, which is why manual therapy in the area of ​​the cervical spine is used only rarely and with caution.

At present, no clear recommendation for or against the treatment of vertebral blockages with the help of manual medicine can be made. Before starting any therapy, the advantages and disadvantages should be discussed in detail with the attending physician.

You can find more information on chiropractic / manual medicine at: visceral osteopathy.

Loosen vertebral blockages yourself

As an untreated vertebral obstruction cause chronic pain it is important to take suitable measures to counteract the chronicity of the symptoms. You can also do something yourself to a certain extent.
A moderate one Move and Gymnastic exercises are good for generally reducing the symptoms of a vertebral blockage, but also for relieving them. Since joint blockages can also be released spontaneously through movement, also walks or a few light ones stretching already help.

Here are a few simple stretching and gym exercises that can help with a vertebral block:

  • Exercise 1:
    Lie on your back on the floor and pull both knees towards your chest. Now embrace your knees with both arms and pull your head towards your knees as well. Make yourself completely round. Hold this position for a few minutes. This exercise can help loosen the blockages in all sections of the spine (lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and cervical spine).
  • Exercise 2:
    This exercise will help release a blockage in the cervical spine and relieve neck tension. To do this, also lie on your back on the floor. Put your legs up loosely and put your hands on your neck. The elbows should point to the sides. Without using much force, place your hands on your neck and bend your arms. Now pull slowly chin to chest. The strength must come from the neck muscles! Do not pull your head towards your chest with your arms! Now hold the position for a few breaths and then release them again. Put your head down very loosely, put your elbows back to your sides and make sure that the neck muscles relax.

If there is a pronounced vertebral blockage, certain maneuvers can be carried out by yourself to release the blockage. One speaks of a so-called active mobilization. The mobilization serves to stretch the Capsule band apparatus and the muscles that act on the joint.
The mobilization is different for different joints and one should always from an experienced physiotherapist guide to let. In addition, the risk of injury from untrained mobilization is too great.


The best way to prevent back pain from vertebral blockages is to prevent back pain regular exercise. Well-trained back muscles are a prerequisite for a flexible spine. In many cases, one-sided loading and a lack of compensation lead to dislocated vertebrae. Sports of all types strengthen the muscles and strengthen the spine.

Simple tricks help to integrate more movement into everyday life: walking upstairs instead of using the elevator, parking a little further away when shopping or riding a bike. Even the way to the printer at work can mean movement if you place the printer at the other end of the room.

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