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Who Wants a Subluxation-Free World?

subluxation-world.jpgFrom time to time I encounter a chiropractor, usually a younger, more idealistic chiropractor, who has proclaimed that his objective; his purpose for being in practice is to create a “subluxation-free world.” I rarely hear this from more experienced chiropractors, tempered by the wisdom of many years in practice and having been trained at a time when chiropractic philosophy was still taught at chiropractic colleges.

I appreciate their passion and I’m thankful that they are so invested in a cause larger than themselves. However, in their zeal to change the world, chiropractors who make subluxations Public Enemy Number One, make three serious oversights:

1. You will not win by being against.
2. Subluxations are effects; symptoms.
3. Eliminating subluxations is the practice of medicine.

Care to join me on a quick exploration of each? Perhaps in the process greater clarity will emerge and an explanation for the current state of many chiropractic practices will be revealed.

You Cannot Win by Being Against

The War on Poverty, launched as part of the Johnson administration’s Great Society initiative back in the 1960s sounded good, but 50 years later, after pouring trillions into various social programs, the poverty meter hasn’t budged. Similarly, the War on Drugs, the War on Cancer, the War on Terrorism and for that matter, the War on Hangnails share a similar fate. Oh, it invokes the expression of our recessive “do-gooder” gene, but it doesn’t really change much. Poverty, drugs, cancer, terrorism and hangnails will be with us forever if our best strategy is to pass laws, spend money and treat these various symptoms.

The only shot (and it’s a long one) we have of reducing poverty is to be for affluence. To be for self-responsibility. To be for serving others. To be for education. To be for delaying gratification and to be for all the other issues, which when manifested, result in the opposite of poverty.

And that’s true for subluxations as well. Because like poverty, subluxations are symptoms.

Subluxations Are Effects; Symptoms

This is where I often part company with the most earnest chiropractor who is positive that subluxations are the root cause of a whole host of health problems both local and peripheral to the spine. Yet, this is the same thinking that imagines that handguns kill people and plastic credit cards are responsible for the debt so many find themselves in.

The way I learned it, subluxations are merely gorgeous, creative and resourceful ways our bodies use in an attempt to accommodate physical, chemical or emotional stress. In the same way cancer is a gorgeous, creative and resourceful way our bodies express in an attempt to accommodate physical, chemical or emotional stress. Or any other named disease or condition. Our bodies are merely trying to cope with our environment. Why would you want to be anti-coping? Anti-adapting?

For the most rabid, who have misinterpreted B. J. Palmer’s “one-cause-one-cure” observation and imagine subluxations are the root cause of virtually every malady known to man; I use the leaky roof metaphor. A leaky roof (stress) produces a water stain in the ceiling (subluxation). Which damages the carpet (symptom). Is the wet carpet the real problem? No. Is the ceiling stain the real problem? No. Is the leaky roof the real problem? I think so, since rain, like physical, chemical and emotional stress is here for the duration. They seem to be “givens.” After all, you’re only likely to stop subluxating when you no longer have stress in your life, which for most us will be when gravity claims victory and our body can no longer rise above room temperature.

If subluxations are your boogieman, you might want to be “for” the reduction of physical, chemical and emotional stresses—something far more messy, complicated and difficult to achieve. Especially if your only hammer is spine thrusting.

Eliminating Subluxations is the Practice of Medicine

Naturally, this observation roils the aforementioned idealistic chiropractor. Because many chiropractors who have made subluxations the enemy are often anti-medicine. “You’re not going to vaccinate your children are you? Heavens!” (Shame.) “You’re not going to take one of those “stomach-bleeding-kidney-killing-liver-destroying-over-the-counter pain relievers are you!” (Guilt.)

The list goes on. And it may not be as overt. It could be simply a raised eyebrow. Remember, these potentially unhealthy patient behaviors are merely symptoms—symptoms resulting from what patients believe.

Making subluxation elimination your objective is no different than an oncologist making a tumor the focus of his or her attentions. Declaring war on subluxations places the chiropractor in the same category as a medical doctor attempting to ameliorate the effects of heart disease or any other symptom. When your intent is to treat the body’s attempt to accommodate physical, chemical or emotional stress (subluxation) you have veered into the practice of medicine. Now, the practice of medicine isn’t bad, it’s just that chiropractic licensure in most jurisdictions make it clear that chiropractors don’t practice medicine.

Treating subluxations, unlike the practice of chiropractic and its intent of reviving the ability of the patient’s body to self-heal, creates the tension between the interests of third parties and holding true to the principles of chiropractic.

Why This is More Than Semantics

Some might perceive this as intellectual hair splitting and an extravagant luxury for pipe-smoking philosophers. Hardly. When this critical distinction is ignored, it produces several unhelpful practice pathologies:

1. Patients think your adjustments are treating their (enter admitting complaint here.) While this is usually what patients want and the path of least resistance, if you fail to make the distinction that you’re merely helping revive their ability to self heal, you’ll be blamed for slow recoveries and their subsequent relapse. Because you didn’t “fix” them!

2. Patients dismiss themselves once they feel better. When you practice chiropractic medicine, you don’t enjoy the benefits of a chiropractic practice. You’ll rarely enjoy the stability of having a tribe of once-a-monthers who “get” chiropractic as a valuable adjunct to a healthy lifestyle. Instead, you have a constant and voracious appetite for new patients, without the cultural authority afforded medical doctors.

When you abandon the notion that subluxations are “bad” and merely the body’s best short-term strategy to accommodate physical, chemical and emotional stress, and you communicate this distinction to patients in a meaningful way, the burden of being responsible for things outside your control is lifted and practice becomes more joyful and soul satisfying.

Comments (4)

I agree with you about number one. However number two and number three are both way off base in my opinion. BJ Palmer stated "Chiropractic is a philosophy, science, and art of things natural; a system of adjusting the segments of the spine by hand only, for the correction of the cause of dis-ease." A subluxation is a physical manifestation of the body's inability to overcome the forces of nature, be it through traumas, toxins, or autosuggestions. A symptom is indeed an effect. However, you can reduce all the pollution, chemicals, junk food, you want, take away all forms of motor transportation you can, and create the most Utopian society possible, and that subluxation, if present, will not go away unless a specific corrective force is directed at it. It is unrealistic to think that a chiropractor can teach all their patients to avoid every negative aspect of life. That's where Chiropractic has been blurred into becoming ionic footbaths, nutrition, exercise rehab, etc. This is akin to saying that the cause of death is life.

Subluxations are not short term either. If a baby is born with a subluxation, and never has it corrected, and it begins a cascade of symptoms, drugs, surgery, and early degeneration. That is not short term but life long. And they don't go away, as I stated earlier, if you move to Utopia.

The one cause-one cure argument that everyone criticizes BJ Palmer about is never interpreted correctly. Nowhere in his definition did he state that Chiropractic was correcting the cause of disease, but of dis-ease, which he meant to be an incoordination of communication between the nervous system and the peripheral tissues of the body.

The whole for-against argument is good, but as it pertains to Chiropractic, it would be more appropriate to be for restoring proper communication between the brain and body as opposed to reducing chemical, emotional, and physical stresses in your patients, which is still being against something. No matter what you say, there is nothing guaranteeing they will NOT get in a car accident on the way home from an adjustment, or grab some french fries to appease hungry, tired kids on the way home from school, or prevent a loved one from dying.

Also, Chiropractic is NOT Chiropractic medicine, nor is it a treatment for ANY musculoskeletal condition or disease, despite what the CCE has poisoned our profession into thinking.

Personally, I thought this article represented a lack of understanding of Chiropractic and more of the practice management version of Chiropractic. Very disappointing.

It's so refreshing that a non-DC truly understands what Chiropractic and health/wellness is all about and that you so freely share it to help keep us on purpose. You are truly a shining star. Please keep on keeping on.

Michael Shreeve, DC:

So simple to see that yes we are good at finding and removing subluxations yet so hard to see that without change what caused them means yes they will return as the bodies normal response...

Brilliant Bill. One of the few logical thinkers in/outside chiropractic

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From May 20, 2011 11:26 AM

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