The Vertebral Subluxation


As scientific knowledge and philosophical understanding    increases, it sometimes becomes necessary for us to reexamine and/or redefine aspects of chiropractic.  Perhaps the facet most in need of reexamination is the vertebral subluxation.  The importance of the vertebral subluxation is underscored by the fact that it is a central part of the chiropractic philosophy, the chiropractic art, and the chiropractic science. While there are many areas of discussion relative to the vertebral subluxation, time and space require that we narrow this discussion to one particular area. 

A question continually debated is whether the innate intelligence of the body would create a vertebral subluxation.  One side of the debate adheres to the principle (#25) that the innate intelligence will never do anything to harm the tissues in which it resides.  A subluxation is a detriment to the well being of the organism.  The fact that we correct subluxations also clearly suggests that they are bad, which means that the intelligence of the body would not create one since that would not be intelligent and the innate intelligence  always acts in a responsible and intelligent manner.   Case closed.  It is very easy to give philosophical chiropractic answers.  The conclusion therefore is that any subluxation is not the result of the “wishes” of the innate intelligence but in spite of them.  Any misalignment or adaptative change is not a subluxation, which fulfills the four-point criteria, but is a compensatory mechanism brought into action specifically by the innate intelligence of the body. 

The challenge to this position is the argument that any structural deviation to the spine in some way affects the function of the nerve system since you cannot affect structure without affecting function in some manner.  The challenge usually comes from one of the technique people and invariably it is one who is concerned with structure, who is trying to straighten spines or bring curves into his/her pre-determined idea of normal.  They consider any structural change within the body, including curvatures, to be a subluxation.  It is easy and common to brush off these approaches as not being truly straight chiropractic and perhaps they are not, but that does not mean that they do not raise some valid questions. The discussion that develops proves quite interesting.  We agree that the innate intelligence will change the structure of the spine by moving individual bones to produce adaptative curves.  If, however, that causes some sort of interference in the function of the nerve system, (i.e., a subluxation) then the innate intelligence has indeed created a subluxation.  How does that coincide with our principle that the body will do nothing to harm the tissues in which it resides?

First we need to understand what we mean by innate intelligence not harming the tissues in which it resides.   The innate intelligence of the body will not harm the overall organism but that does not mean that the innate intelligence may not on occasions sacrifice certain parts or functions for the good of the whole organism.   An example of this is when the innate intelligence withdraws blood from the extremities to pool blood in the internal parts of the body.  In frigid weather this definitely sets up the potential for   frostbite but it also keeps the vital, internal organs warm, thus sacrificing the extremities to keep the person alive.  With that concept in mind, it would seem that the innate intelligence of the body may misalign a bone of the spine, even to the point of causing an interference in the nerve system for the greater good of the organism.   Would that be a subluxation or a compensation?  Is it an adaptative mechanism?  Should we adjust it or not?  Or more correctly, should we introduce a force to move it?  If it were not a subluxation, we would not be adjusting even if we were changing its position since by definition an adjustment is a correction of a subluxation.  It would seem that these situations would be few and far   between, mostly because of the importance of the nerve system.  However, it does seem conceivable that the innate intelligence could and would deprive cells of a proper nerve supply just as it deprives the extremities of a proper blood supply if there was a greater good to be accomplished. 

Perhaps then, we need a new criteria for the vertebral subluxation besides the criteria we already know (loss of juxtaposition, occlusion of an opening, impingement upon a nerve and interference with the transmission of mental impulses).  Perhaps we need to qualify a subluxation as a bone that is in a position that places it outside of the control of the innate intelligence of the body.  In other words, the innate intelligence could move a bone into a position that would cause nerve interference but still have control over that bone, be aware of the overall body needs, and be able to restore it to its proper position or move it to a less damaging position as the circumstances change.  This would not be a subluxation.  However, a bone in a position in which the innate intelligence has no control and cannot move it back or into another position as needed would qualify it as a vertebral subluxation.  Although nerve interference is present in both cases, in the first situation the innate intelligence can move the bone back or somewhere else as needed.  In the true subluxation, the innate intelligence cannot move the bone from the position in which it is resting without an outside force which it can utilize.  (This force commonly being in the form of a  chiropractic thrust.)

This way of looking at the subluxation would include elements of B.J.’s idea that nerve interference could occur below axis without being a subluxation although, for different reasons.  B.J. advocated correcting these “nerve interference causing misalignments” if the upper cervical subluxation did not clear out in a certain period of time.  In this new model there would be no reason to ever adjust those misalignments.  This way of defining subluxation would also include certain elements of the concept of fixation associated with other techniques, although the innate intelligence could conceivably fix or set a vertebra so that it seemed to be a fixation by something like motion palpation but still not be a subluxation by the new criteria. 

We know that a vertebra subluxates because an external invasive force greater than the internal resistive forces has been introduced into the body.   This means that the body did not have sufficient force to prevent it.   It would then seem that it remains a subluxation because the innate intelligence cannot produce or transmit sufficient innate forces to correct it-at least not at that specific movement.  It would take an outside force (the hands of a chiropractor) to introduce sufficient force for the innate intelligence to correct it.   This is consistent with our present thinking about the   subluxation. The only thing to determine is whether the misaligned bone interfering with the nerve system is outside the control of the innate intelligence (i.e., a subluxation) or whether it is not.  However, that is a technique discussion, outside of the scope of this article, and something we will discuss in a future issue.  Meanwhile, each of us needs to evaluate our present form of analysis in light of this criteria.v17n3

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