Are Vertebral Subluxations Always Bad?


            One of the beautiful things about the philosophy of chiropractic is that it does not teach us what to think but gives us tools to help us think.  Challenges to our positions and assumptions are important to a living viable philosophy.  Someone may ask a question or make a statement that challenges the very heart of what we think we know to be true.  Whether or not a vertebral subluxation is always bad, or whether a vertebral subluxation could somehow be good, is a challenge that continues to surface as a legitimate question that needs to be addressed.  To answer a challenge such as this we need to define our terms, use the logic of our minds, and use the principles we know to be true.

I believe we need to ask several questions to establish (or review) some foundational concepts, and let the answers help shed light on our challenge.  We need to be able to answer the questions: What is a vertebral subluxation?, What is innate intelligence?, What causes a vertebral subluxation?, What corrects a vertebral subluxation, and finally, What are the effects of a vertebral subluxation? 

First, what is a vertebral subluxation? R.W. Stephenson, D.C., Ph.C. wrote: “A subluxation is the condition of a vertebra that has lost its proper juxtaposition with the one above or the one below, or both; to an extent less than a luxation; which impinges nerves and interferes with the transmission of mental impulses.”(Stephenson, 1948)  In this, and the many other good definitions of vertebral subluxation (vs), there seems to be a common set of core agreed upon criteria consisting of: loss of proper relationship between vertebra, nerve interference and mental impulse disruption.

Second, what is innate intelligence?  Innate intelligence (ii) is the inborn organization of living matter.  It is the principle that expresses in living matter causing it to be animated via the creation of innate forces.  (See article 50 and principles 20-3, Stephenson, 1948)

The next question that needs to be answered is what causes a vertebral subluxation?  Specifically our philosophy defines the cause of vs as any external invasive force that overcomes our internal resistive forces.  These external invasive forces can be physical, chemical or emotional.  More generally, vs occurs due to the fact, and philosophical principle (principle 24), that there are limitations of matter.  (Stephenson, 1948) 

Fourth, how is a vertebral subluxation corrected?  Due to the vs, the ii of the body is not able to create the innate force necessary to correct the vs.   The ii of the body needs to adapt a universal force into an innate force in order to correct a vs. Thus, an outside force is required. 

Lastly, what are the effects of vs?  A vs interferes with the expression of the ii of the body.  A decreased expression of ii means that matter in the body will no longer be coordinated for the good of the whole body.  Organs, glands, tissues or cells functioning without the coordination of the ii of the body will function selfishly and to the detriment of the body as a whole.  Hyper or hypo function, paralysis and death are results of vs, as well as the whole body being left in a state of dis-ease, disharmony and in-coordination.  Based on these known effects of a vs, clearly it seems to be a negative situation for the whole body without any positives.

With the answers to these five foundational questions we can now entertain the challenge of whether a vs could ever be good.  The challenge can come in many different forms and this paper will try to address as many as possible.

In trying to argue for the concept of a vs being good, some liken a vs to a challenge the body can grow from and be strengthened by.  Typically a vs would be compared to something like exercise, which is a stress that the body adapts to and creates positive survival values from.  Another comparison   would be surviving exposure to a virus, or bacteria, which could cause an accumulation of constructive survival values.  Can a vs fit in the same category as exercise or overcoming an infection as a positive stress or challenge causing the body to improve?  The answer is no. 

Although the body may survive after a vs is corrected it does not mean that any positive survival values where accumulated while the person was subluxated.   Furthermore, the body was designed for things such as exercise, but was never meant to be subluxated.   A more correct or accurate analogy for a vs would be a broken bone, burn or cut.  Although a broken bone, burn or cut and their resulting damage can be overcome they do not result in an overall improvement in the body.  There can be successful adaptations, but the body is not better for it.  With a brake, burn, or cut, permanent physical damage and/or change has occurred.  A vs can also result in permanent physical damage and/or change.

The case for a vs being good is sometimes made with the scenario that because of a vs, the ii of the body has a chance learn something from the particular challenges of being subluxated.  This contradicts the fact that ii is perfect.  Ii does not learn anything.  There is nothing ii could learn, it is 100%.  Although the matter can be compromised, ii is always 100%.  I believe those presenting this argument may be confused by situations where the body is improved because of a successful adaptation to something.  Again we can use exercise as an example.  A person, because of exercise, may live longer or become stronger and better able to resist outside forces.  This improvement is the result of a body adapting to positive stressors and accumulating positive survival values.  The improvement is not due to ii learning anything.

Another argument for vs being good is that the ii of the body may have “chosen” or directed a vs to occur, instead of something worse happening.  The argument would continue in one of two directions.  First, that maybe the body incurs a force and instead of a broken bone, for example, a vs is caused.  The second, that due to some other vs, imbalance or problem a vs is caused by the body as a result of adapting.  We have already stated and established a vs occurs when internal resistive forces are overcome.  The body always resists the forces that could cause a vs. A vs is a situation where the ii of the body will lose control of a spinal segment, interference with proper nervous system function is occurring, and less than full expression of ii is effecting the whole organism negatively. What is really being proposed in the above scenarios is called a compensation, which is not the same thing as a vs. A compensation is a purposeful adaptation to some other situation and, when related to the spine, can have a misalignment component, but it cannot interfere with mental impulse transmission because the ii of the body would never purposefully disrupt its ability to coordinate the tissues of the body. Ii never causes forces that harm the tissues it controls.   Ii can direct a compensation to occur, but not vs.   A vs cannot be both the result of internal resistive forces being overcome and also the result of the expression of ii, the former being the traditional and clear view of our philosophy.

Another argument used for a vs being good, is based on the idea of the ii of the body creating a potentially negative situation as a result of an environment change.  For example, a person falls into freezing water.  The ii of the body causes the blood flow to be directed away from the peripheral parts of the body and towards the vital organs in order to preserve the life of the person.  The argument would be put forward, that ii is causing the negative situation of the limbs being sacrificed, and similarly the ii of the body could cause a vs under some similar scenario.   It is true that blood flow to the vital organs is being redirecting to maintain life, but it is the cold water that is damaging the limbs not the ii of the body.  Ii is not harming the body the cold water is, this is where I believe the confusion lies with regard to this scenario.  Ii does not cause a vs.

There are those in the profession (mostly technique promoters and not philosophers) who may not think a vs is good, but seem to actually give support to this argument by promoting positions that are philosophically unsound.  There are those who teach that when locating, analyzing and correcting vs that some vs should be corrected and some not.  Some teach that there is a preferable order to vs correction.  Some chiropractors also promote the idea that we should not correct the same vs too often, as the body will become dependant on the chiropractor for the adjustment. 

All of these perspectives fall short upon examination with the philosophical positions we know to be true.  If vs decreases the expression of ii in the body and is out of the control of the ii of the body, what could justify leaving a vs present?   A vs is a situation where the body is unable to create the innate force necessary to correct the problem.  A universal force is required and necessary so the ii of the body can adapt it to bring about an adjustment.  The ii of the body does not “know” if the force comes from the proverbial shovel, a fall down the stairs, a pat on the back, a deep breath, a PT’s manipulation or a chiropractor’s adjustment.  If the force is usable, it will be adapted for an immediate correction.  This situation is not one where we should be deciding whether to adjust or not, but instead it should motivate us to be the best chiropractors we can be in performing spinal analysis and our adjusting technique.     

Lastly, some may argue that a vs is good compared to something else.  Although being subluxated may be better than being dead for example, this is just relativism.  If there were some continuum where there could be things worse than a vs, it would not make a vs good.  Robbery is probably better than murder or rape, but it in no way makes robbery good. Neither does it make a vs good.      

There are two final points to make against a vs being good.  First, our philosophy defines life as the expression of ii through matter.  A vs decreases the full expression of life in the body.  There does not seem to be any way of painting this as a potential positive. 

Second, if a vs could be good, as some chiropractors suggest, when do they decide not to correct them? Our profession has been dedicated to locating, analyzing and correcting vs for over 100 years.  If you find a vs and it could be good, there would be no reason to correct it.  In fact what seems to be the corollary of a vs being good is that an adjustment would be bad.  Following this line of logic further we could conclude that maybe we should try to cause a vs, if it could be of benefit.  This would seemingly completely do away with our profession, as we know it.  It is hard enough for many in our profession even to feel confident they have found a vs, now as some propose they also would have to decide what to do or not to do about it. 

Challenges are always welcomed and encouraged, and the question of whether a vs could sometimes be good is an important philosophical question.  Unless our premises are false or our terms have been defined improperly there seems to be no philosophical or logical way to justify a vs as in any way being good. 

Jason Meyerson, DC

Ellicott City, MD

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Posted in: Thinking Straight

This article has 2 comments

  1. Michael Duncan 02/09/2013, 4:50 pm:

    Love it when you wrote it, Jason…and I love it now! It is a timely piece and does an excellent job of explaining the “why” behind the importance of LACVS!

    • Claude Lessard 02/09/2013, 6:29 pm:


      It is a terrific blog that Jason wrote and it is philosophically proving that if the premise is NOT true, no matter how clever the deductive reasoning or the argument is, the conclusion will have very little validity at all. Insert into the mix some faulty reasonings, and the conclusion will be totally false. –

      – On the other hand, if the premise is true and the deductive reasoning is logical, then, the conclusion will also be true. If there is faulty reasonings along the way, the faulty reasonings will stand out and formal logic will show the error, thus keeping the reasoning “on track” until its full and true conclusion. –

      – I just read yesterday an EXCELLENT article by Rob Sinnott, DC, in the magazine SPIZZ , that addresses this very issue. One of the point Rob makes, and I quote him verbatim: “Chiropractic philosophy is built upon the model of formal logic and will, as always, serve as our tool of measurement”. –

      – We truly need each other to keep checking our slippings, otherwise, we will most definitely slip our checkings. –

      _ Thank you Michael for bringing that up today! 😉

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