It is pandemic.
It robs individuals of health, function and well-being, yet the vast majority of the world has never heard the term. Even fewer have the awareness that they or their family members may actually be experiencing it in their lives.
So what is vertebral subluxation and why is it so common?
Vertebral subluxation is a structural misalignment of the spine that by the very nature of our anatomy, necessarily affects the all-important nervous system, and has both local and global effects on our bodies and lives. 1-13
What causes vertebral subluxation?
Vertebral subluxation is caused by physical, chemical and emotional stressors. The body is designed to handle stress by dissipating that stress throughout the system, using it for its own benefit or if too much of a load, incurring damage to the physical tissues. Much like a bone breaks when the force exceeds the bone’s capacity for that force, the spine subluxates when exposed to excessive acute and/or repetitive stress.
Why is vertebral subluxation so common?
Vertebral subluxation is a natural consequence of the stressors mentioned above. All three types of stress occur throughout life and now in our sedentary, industrialized lifestyles, they occur in epic proportions, and likewise, so do subluxations of the spine. Vertebral subluxation is a natural, degenerative condition. They are a natural consequence when the body is subjected to forces beyond its capacity to adapt to those forces. That capacity to adapt is reduced even more in the presence of vertebral subluxation as the nervous system now becomes compromised, and with it, its ability to adapt to stress.
If vertebral subluxations are so common, why are they so overlooked?
The answer is three-fold.
1. A very small percentage of the nervous system is actually dedicated to your sensory experience. This means that dysfunction of your nervous system occurs frequently without any conscious awareness of it because there is often no “feeling” associated with it.
Pain and other conditions associated with vertebral subluxation, like other degenerative conditions, come much later in the process while the actual dysfunction occurs early on. This point is classically illustrated by heart disease. Often the first awareness comes with a heart attack and sudden death even though the disease process has been ongoing for many, many years.
2. The scientific and healthcare community outside of chiropractic is grossly unaware of how to recognize spinal dysfunction or the local and global effects of that dysfunction. While many are unaware and remain in the dark, others are unaware and spread their ignorance through misdirected and malignant criticism of the thing they are ill-prepared to offer any professional or scientific opinion on.
Much of this criticism still comes on the heels of an organized attempt by the American Medical Association to destroy the chiropractic profession through the use of slanderous propaganda. Those actions ultimately resulted in their being found guilty of Anti-Trust violations by the Supreme Court, but not after serious damage was done to the credibility of the profession. 14
3. Despite a large body of positive chiropractic and associated scientific research, there still remains a lack of large-scale research demonstrating the improved quality of life and positive physiological and psychosocial changes that chiropractors have seen for over one hundred years.
While the countless case studies and smaller studies are sufficient to demonstrate a clear benefit and association, we still need more. At very least, the current body of knowledge coupled with the awareness of the often severe impact on human life and economics warrants significant attention and funding to address this need. However, this is not the case. There are two primary reasons for this.
1. For the most part, chiropractic research has to be internally funded. We rarely receive federal or private funding to advance our research. The bulk of the world’s research dollars are going to fund new pharmaceuticals. The truth is that chiropractic has done very well in cost-related studies when compared to other care options. There is no reason for those currently making money off of our sick care system to invest in a natural, cost-effective solution.15
2. Internal conflict has sapped time, energy and resources from pursuing and advancing a research agenda centered around vertebral subluxation. There are chiropractors within the field and in academia who put forth that we should adopt different terminology such as “spinal lesion” or “joint dysunction” because they believe it will be more readily accepted by the medical community and insurance companies. The irony is that there is more evidence and scientific support for the vertebral subluxation than there are for those other two concepts.
When should someone see a chiropractor?
Recognizing that vertebral subluxation occurs commonly throughout life, it would follow that if someone values optimal health and function, they should be checked throughout life for the presence of this common form of spinal and neurological dysfunction. This model of health maintenance and prevention is no different than that of the dentistry profession.
It is this author’s opinion that everyone should be checked from birth throughout life for the presence of vertebral subluxation. I have offered this level of care to my own son and have received this type of care for over half of my life. It would be both immoral and unethical for me to recommend anything less to others, or at very least to educate them on the available options. For some that means getting checked once a month, others every 3 months. Still some choose to get checked once a week.
To those that have still not grasped the significance of the neurological ramifications and detrimental effects vertebral subluxation presents, getting checked in this manner, will seem extreme. However, when one values optimal performance, health and function and realizes that having an optimum functioning spine and nervous system is a necessary part of that equation, they will soon realize that having your spine checked regularly by a chiropractor, much like seeing a dentist, is a healthy thing to do.
1. Bolton, P. S. (2000). Reflex effects of vertebral subluxations: the peripheral nervous system. An update. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 23(2), 101-103.
2. Seaman, D. R. (1997). JOINT COMPLEX DYSFUNCTION, A NOVEL TERM TO REPLACE SUBLUXATION/SUBLUXATIONCOMPLEX: ETIOLOGICAL AND TREATMENT CONSIDERATIONS. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 20(9), 634-644.
3. McLain, R. F. (1994). Mechanoreceptor endings in human cervical facet joints.Spine, 19(5), 495-501.
4. Taylor, H. H., Holt, K., & Murphy, B. (2010). Exploring the neuromodulatory effects of the vertebral subluxation and chiropractic care. Chiropr J Aust, 40, 37-44.
5. Haavik-Taylor, H., & Murphy, B. (2007). Cervical spine manipulation alters sensorimotor integration: a somatosensory evoked potential study. Clinical neurophysiology, 118(2), 391-402.
6. Daligadu, J. (2012). Cortical and cerebellar motor processing changes subsequent to motor training and cervical spine manipulation.
7. Marshall, L. D. (2013). The effect of cervical spine manipulation on elbow joint position sense in patients with acute cervical facet syndrome.
8. Haavik, H., & Murphy, B. (2012). The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 22(5), 768-776.
9. Haavik, H., & Murphy, B. (2011). Subclinical neck pain and the effects of cervical manipulation on elbow joint position sense. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 34(2), 88-97.
10. Haavik-Taylor, H., & Murphy, B. (2007). Transient modulation of intracortical inhibition following spinal manipulation. Chiropractic Journal of Australia, 37(3), 106.
11. Taylor, H. H., & Murphy, B. (2010). The effects of spinal manipulation on central integration of dual somatosensory input observed after motor training: a crossover study. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 33(4), 261-272.
12. Taylor, H. H., & Murphy, B. (2010). Altered central integration of dual somatosensory input after cervical spine manipulation. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 33(3), 178-188.
13. Taylor, H. H., & Murphy, B. (2008). Altered sensorimotor integration with cervical spine manipulation. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 31(2), 115-126.
14. Wilk v AMA http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/cases/antitrust/wilk_v_AMA.htm
15. List of studies on cost-effectiveness http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/Cost_Effectiveness.shtml