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Vertebral subluxation is one of the most overlooked forms of neurological dysfunction affecting society today.

It is a 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.


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

15. List of studies on cost-effectiveness


Dr. Steve Tullius is a San Diego pediatric and family chiropractor. He is actively involved in chiropractic education and research and is particularly focused on helping children with severe neurological conditions such as autism, other pervasive developmental disorders, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and epilepsy.

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Improvement in All Areas of Life

We've seen a lot of improvement in his speech and his vocabulary has grown vastly. I'm able to have more conversations with him. He has more control over his body and we're seeing so much improvement in all areas of his life.

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In only 4 visits for my daughter, they have given her life back to her. Relieving her completely from debilitating depression for over 10 yrs, anxiety, OCD, and panic attacks that at times kept her from going out.

It is truly a miracle. She is playing music, painting, drawing. She told me tonight she can't ever remember being this happy in her life. I thank God for leading me to Dr. Steve. He may just have saved her life. She has been suicidal for years. She is just 19 yrs old. God bless you Steve for saving my daughter and me from the hell we've been in for so long.

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The increase in affection has been the greatest reward since our son started care. We are so grateful Dr. Steve.

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We have seen so many changes in Liam since he’s been coming. He went from having up to 60 seizures a day to seizure free.

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Dr. Steve and his staff at the Center for Health and Human Potential have treated our daughter with special needs with total kindness, complete respect, and immeasurable patience.

It has been one of the most comfortable experiences with healthcare, and we would recommend any parent to look into services at CHHP, whether to improve a specific condition or to seek out general health benefits from their approach to chiropractic care.

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Although Dylan still has a long way to go, we have seen significant improvements with his seizures, medication dosages, and trunk control. I feel confident that we will see even more progress as he continues to see Dr. Steve!

- Laura McNamara


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My daughter has come out of her shell. She is more sociable on her own without being prompted to speak. It's a wonderful feeling to see her so happy where before I would have to encourage her to reply to people when spoken to. She is on the safety patrol at school and encourages students K-8 to follow rules. I can't believe she is telling 8th graders to follow rules!

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