What is a Subluxation?

The concept dates to the origin of chiropractic when DD Palmer discovered that by manually “adjusting” what appeared to be displaced bones back toward a normal position, a profound healing effect occurred for many people who had suffered from a wide range of human ills. Because he thought he was fixing a bone out of place that put pressure on nerves that controlled many organ functions, he named it the “subluxation” which is a small luxation, or dislocation. The tendency to explain the successes of chiropractic with structural or positional terms is not limited to Palmer’s experience back in 1895. There are nearly 300 definitions and descriptions of this elusive entity in the chiropractic, osteopathic, orthopedic and related biomedical journals. So something is obviously there, but it still defies precise definition despite the myriad of attempts to pin it down. Most of these attempts are based on the analysis or measurement of physiological parameters, the application of a corrective force or adjustment, then a reanalysis to observe changes, inferring that a subluxation has been corrected or reduced. However, the chiropractor, using any number of tools for quantification, is not really viewing a subluxation, only what is believed to be some of its effects.

Mechanisms and theories are useful tools, but their limitations should always be kept in mind.  The subluxation cannot be precisely defined because it is an abstraction, an intellectual construct used by chiropractors, chiropractic researchers, educators and others to explain the success of the chiropractic adjustment. Like the concepts of life or gravity, we have theories that attempt to explain them, but we can only observe the effect that they produce in our world. We can’t isolate life in a test tube, or contain gravity in a laboratory. In our attempt to reduce the subluxation to measureable mechanistic concepts we risk losing the person that has the subluxation. We cannot see the “subluxation” or the “adjustment” independent of the physical, emotional and spiritual person where it resides. A living person is so complex we cannot see all the changes the subluxation causes and all the changes that occur as a result of the “adjustment”. We merely observe the subluxation’s effects and the response to the body when an adjustment is performed. Only in that way we can better understand how a subluxation affects body/ mind/ spiritual health, and the best techniques for dealing with subluxations.

The location and correction of the subluxation are the heart and soul of chiropractic. The concept however defined, is what makes the chiropractic profession unique among healing arts. There are those who would like to see the term renamed in the interest of becoming more clinically mainstream, but like many terms that arose from within other professions, it is part of chiropractic’s heritage. Perhaps it is an anachronism, but in the context of a vitalistic world view it can express the wholeness so needed in a world where “health” becomes compartmentalized, specialized and merely a commodity.  The subluxation will continue to be defined by the philosophical platform and the methodology employed by individual chiropractors, so the discussion will continue for quite some time.

Subluxation is defined by the Counsel on Chiropractic Practice as “a neurological imbalance or distortion in the body associated with adverse physiological responses and/or structural changes, which may become persistent or progressive. The most frequent site for the correction of the subluxation is via the vertebral column.”  I would like to take the broadest possible view on this concept and consider it a blockage or distortion of innate vitality, also known as the life force, where that blockage produces a “dis-ease” condition. It can arise from structural, biochemical, emotional or electromagnetic sources, and the correction of the distortion can be as individual as the person.  


“Vertebral subluxation is a symptom of Interference of Innate and not a cause’”

           --BJ Palmer (Developer of Chiropractic, Davenport, Iowa, 1931)          

Healing is magical, mysterious, and wondrous. It is a physical, emotional, spiritual journey that both doctor and patient are on. Unrestricted by conventional intellectual dogma, we can discover the laws of life by studying living things functioning in health and disease, subluxated and unsubluxated.  

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. Those to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, are as good as dead; their eyes are closed.”

--Albert Einstein

The above information was based on and highly excerpted from an article by Dr. Tedd Koren, D.C. entitled, “Does the Subluxation Exist?”,  which is reproduced in the Articles section of this website. It’s a beautiful expression of vitalism in health care.