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Quantum Chiropractic

How do you explain chiropractic failures?According to David Seaman, MS, DC, DACBN in a recent article entitled, “It’s Time to Move Beyond Subluxation” published in Dynamic Chiropractic, the term subluxation has no place in the 2007 vernacular since we can’t measure pre- or post-adjustment changes. (Really?) Worse, “certain patients” don’t respond as expected after a so-called “treatment” for subluxation. (Of course.) Thus, subluxation is an anachronistic term we should put behind us; a remnant of an unenlightened bygone era.

Nice try.

This will be a tough sell, since according to a recent survey, an overwhelming majority of chiropractors said they want to retain the term “vertebral subluxation complex.”

“We need to give up the notion that adjustments have magical or supernatural healing outcomes,” continues Dr. Seaman.

I couldn’t agree more. But probably for different reasons.

While it’s tempting to construct a recipe for relief (adjust here for sciatica, there for headaches, etc.), this approach is far too linear and mechanistic for something as dynamic and complex as a human being. As is so often the case among chiropractors who take a cookbook approach to patient care, they forget two key elements affecting the results they (and the patient) can expect from chiropractic care:

1. What physical, chemical or emotional stressor(s) precipitated the survival strategy and defense posture that most of the profession (and chiropractic licensing boards) call vertebral subluxation, and

2. Is that physical, chemical or emotional stressor still present?

These issues are not only inconvenient, but potentially messy. Practitioners who experience the giddy self-affirmation of hearing, feeling or visualizing the patient’s spine responding to their intervention, are inclined to overlook these critical distinctions. They love delivering the adjustment so much and get such a “do-gooder” high from superimposing their egotistical notion upon the patient’s spine, that they blindly thrust away. When patients don’t respond as they expect they either thrust more vigorously, blame the patient’s poor compliance or search for a “better” (meaning more predictably consistent) adjusting technique.

Naturally, the more forceful adjusting, patient blaming and technique searching rarely provide comfort. However, it does give technique instructors steady work and career paths for those who, for a fee, will teach you the scripts and procedures for 100% Peter Piper patient compliance.

My earliest chiropractic mentors taught me that there is a difference between chiropractors and medical practitioners. Medical practitioners looked at the person’s problem, but chiropractors looked at the person with the problem. Maybe that’s the issue at play among those who would prefer abandoning the “S” word. Because if you focus on the symptom (fixation, reduced range of motion, pain syndromes, etc.) rather than the person (poor diet, over weight, unfulfilling career, broken relationships, lack of restful sleep, etc.) you can easily fall into the my-intervention-isn’t-effective trap. Of course it’s ineffective. You’re dealing with a severely impaired patient!

But how many “I-just-want-to-adjust-I’m-not-a-counselor” crowd want to discuss these psychosocial issues with patients? And even if they did, most feel poorly equipped and even fewer can justify the time. As a result, they fall into the trap of treating the “boo-boo,” rather than caring for the person.

If you ignore the chemical and emotional causations and merely address the symptoms (subluxation), your certainty will suffer, your fulfillment will wane and you will become increasingly ineffective with patients. All because you’ve inappropriately attached a strict cause and effect relationship to a circumstance that has way too many variables.

Consider E=mc².

In the process of testing Einstein’s equation, some unexplainable results started showing up in the lab. It was this sort of conundrum that prompted physicists to invent a new branch of physics called quantum mechanics. Their old Newtonian model was no longer capable of explaining the events they were observing. Same thing here. If you’ve got one foot in the old school medical model, chiropractic results are fairly easy to explain. But what is perceived as chiropractic “failures” are more troubling.

Perhaps it would be more helpful to think of chiropractic as quantum medicine.

But let's not lose the subluxation! It's a word rich with meaning that makes chiropractic different and unique. It may be tempting to excise the "S" word from chiropractic, either from political correctness or from drinking the Kool-Aid of scientism. Many who have busied themselves with this task overlook that the spirit doesn’t conform to a tidy equation or a simple, “if-this-than-that” expression. And reducing chiropractic to the mechanical "non-allopathic lesion" not only makes the big idea small, it degrades patients to soulless chemical reactions, cellular replications and CO2 producers.

It’s not time to move beyond subluxation. It’s time for the rest of the culture to finally catch up with it!

Comments (13)

Urvi Vyas, D.C.:

Dear Bill,

Just wanted to comment on your 9/13/07 post titled "Quantum Chiropractic." The content and message was EXCEPTIONAL. Every single Chiropractor should at least read it, despite philosophical or clinical approaches. Not only is the vertebral subluxation complex the distinguishing factor between Chiropractic Doctors and ANY OTHER health care professional (M.D, D.O, D.D.S, whatever), it defines how and why one can benefit from any type of chiropractic care.

Dr. Seaman's aversion to the word "subluxation" is puzzling. I respect his work and contribution to our profession, but I feel that he associates "subluxation" to be corrected or alleviated by manual adjustments only. As Bill mentioned in his eloquent post, patients that have subluxations experience physical, chemical, and/or emotional stressors...this insight has also been stated by D.D. Palmer back in the day and is in fact supported by Seaman's work...therefore his disgust towards a simple word is an enigma to me.

I fully understand Dr. Seaman and Mr. Esteb's respective points of view, and I have to actually agree with both of them, for seperate reasons. It is important for chiropractic to remain somewhat distinct and seperate from medicine concerning terminology and practice, but we need to be more organized. I think the problem here lies within the fact that the term subluxation has no precise meaning. It seems that every chiropractor has their own personal interpretation, and the colleges all teach variations of the term in accordance to their individual philosophy. I have often found myself defending chiropractic care to patients and profesisonals who have been mislead by others. Where is the consensus? The problem with subluxation based chiropractic today is that there needs to be a definitive declaration by the schools and organizations on what is the widely accepted definition of subluxation. Only then do I think it will have any valid meaning with chiropractors, their patients, and others who scrutinize this profession. Unfortunately, I don't think that the time has come for agreement on this issue!

Adam Morrell DC:

Mr. Esteb, thank you first and foremost for the info you provide on your site. It is apparent that you provide your clientelle with top notch service and product based on their needs and wants. There is one quote above where you liken science to a cult almost shunning the importance of anything scientific. Chiropractic is widely recognized by the schools and most chiropractors I know as not only philosophy and art, but also science. Could you clarify what you mean by that quote? I wouldn't want you misrepresented.

WDE: We are not to shun anything "scientific" (however you define it). But it has limitations. Many fall into the trap of either requiring "proof" from authorities or only trusting what they can register with their five senses. This obscures the spiritual and metaphysical dimensions of our lives. That's all.


Hi Bill,

I’m having fun reading this blog and comments within.

My question is how can we quickly and easily get our patients to take notice and (responsibility) for their "defense" responses? So, the question is what, when and how do we get people to see these physical, emotional and chemical bombardments? And do we counsel them in a way to manage them? Is it our job to point out realistic barriers or "causes" and have them make the changes (or find ways to make the changes?)

I anticipate your response.

Thanks again, and I agree with one of the other responders... you are incredibly witty and a huge boon to we CHIROPRACTORS.

Rick Humiston

WDE: Not sure you can “quickly and easily” get patients to do anything. However, as you acknowledge the many emotional and chemical causes of subluxation, you’d want to share your beliefs with patients. Consider asking interested patients to record exactly what they eat for a week. Or suggest to interested patients to record all the chemicals (that they know about) that they’re exposed to—from their deodorants and toothpaste to their make up and antibacterial hand soap. The first step is awareness! You may not (currently) have many patients who want to live that consciously. Start there.

Jay Weber:

Einstien's theory of relativity (E=MC2) is over a hundred years old. It has changed the face of virtually all fields of science and thought with the exception of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. It's time we catch up with the times. Chiropractic is the perfect fit to lead this vitalistic charge.
Thanks Bill!! You're right on target!!

coease scott:

As I'm moved to do at least once or twice a year, I wanted to express my gratitude for your focus and commitment.

In particular, you're unflagging efforts at reminding us of the other parts of the chiropractic trinity - no less or more important than trauma (what you call physical) - the toxicity (chemical) and auto-suggestion (emotional) pieces.

Comments/curiosities on your latest blog:

1) Who your 'earliest chiropractic mentors' were. And, who might you include on your list of 'mentors' who are amongst us today. Those that you have actually experienced and come to know who might truly align with and are cultivating a relationship with the 'S' in the way that you suggest?

WDE: My earliest mentors were Drs. Riekeman and Flesia.

It is one thing to develop skill(s) at identifying precipitating factors, and whether or not they are still present in the physical realm. It is quite another to do so in the chemical and emotional realms. Again, who/where are such feeling, sensing, thinking, 'quantum' chiropractors you are aware of and align with today?? Those that are willing and committed, day-in and day-out, to life and work in the "messy, inconvenient" worlds of the 'gut' and unconscious. Where the quality of one's perception and relationship(s) is primary. And the questions of trust, meaning and place in the world is what, more times than not, underlies the 'stressors' that come calling for help.

WDE: I have come to have a high regard for Dr. Scott Walker N.E.T., Dr. Donald Epstein (Network Spinal Analysis), virtually all the Morters (B.E.S.T.), Dr. John Demartini, Drs. Kent and Gentempo of the Chiropractic Leadership Alliance and Dr. James Sigafoose.

Thank you for being a leader in this evolving field.

Honestly, even as I continue to, yet again, return to the roots of chiropractic, these days I truly wonder whether or not such quality of relationship and practices can find a home in chiropractic as it has evolved to be thought of in our culture and how practitioners are educated. . .

It is hard to abandon the idea that adjustments have magical or supernatural healing outcomes when I see miracles happen every day with "adjustments on subluxations". If this does not work I do not know how all my patients are getting better, because that is all I do.

Dr. Antonino D. Russo B.Sc. DC:

With "friends" like that, who needs Paul Revere...or his raiders?
I'm having a great time treating the VSC a well as attempting to address its cause. And I'm not changing anything about my practice. All I have to say to those choosing what Dr. Seaman suggests is...good luck. And don't come crying to anyone but yourself when you come up after 15 years and realize your HMO awarded all your Range of Motion Assessements to the Physio down the street. With all to respect to Physiotherapists.

Ellen Thompson:

Bill, you're so right on! I wish the rest of those who do "treatments" would remember what it was that brought them to Chiropractic in the first place and why what we do is so priceless.

A comment regarding research: It's a two-edged sword. While it may give some answers as to why adjustments make the changes that they do, it certainly would have a difficult time measuring and quantifying things that are not measurable.

Bruce Lipton? I've had the distinct pleasure of hearing him speak on 2 or 3 occasions at Palmer, Davenport. This was a couple of years ago before "treatments" became the common descriptor, manipulation the more accepted term, and bowing deeply before the gods of third-party payers.

Jarrod Fancher DC:

Bill, would you mind summing up your thoughts in this article in one sentence? Thanks

WDE: Seeing subluxation in purely mechanical-only terms, obscures the significance of the adjustment and makes so-called “chiropractic failures” difficult to explain.

Shawn LaBelle:

I guess it's possible to describe a sunset as a multi-colored sky with a bright orange ball at the horizon, but it seems void of both passion and truth. Reducing subluxation to a list of 'findings' and 'treatments' is much the same.

Those before us didn't have the benefit/curse of "scientific evidence" that chiropractic doesn't work, so they just expected that it did.

Perhaps the reason some don't see more "supernatural healing outcomes" is that they don't expect them. Didn't Someone once say "You have not because you ask not?"

Maybe we should quit trying to gain acceptance or fit in and just go about the business of serving with quality and great expectation. The results always seem to speak for themselves...

Liz Faletti, DC:

What a scary notion, to give up the term and concept of subluxation! We wouldn't be anything separate and distinct without it!

I've been reading "Biology of Belief" by Bruce Lipton, Phd. It is excellent and thought provoking. And right up chiropractic's alley. Have you read it?

WDE: Yes! If you ever get to hear him speak, do so. He is a great teacher and excellent communicator.

Hi Bill,
not too long ago I was attending a board review with the great Irene Gold and during one of the breaks between classes there discussions between older DCs that there were there to refresh and prepare take boards in other states about how to attract more new patients. And one of us mensioned that the answer was "ask the law maker to give us the license to be able to prescribe some kinds of meds since the public was so used to take them."
At that time I could find the words to answer his comment.
Well, I just found them!

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From September 13, 2007 7:10 AM

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