What is a “subluxation?” If you’ve visited a chiropractor in the past, you may have heard this term before. Subluxation is a legacy term used by the chiropractic profession to refer to various segmental disorders of the spine and extremities that impact neuromuscular function and in some cases visceral activity. While there is some contention as to the term’s use due to its different meaning in medical terminology (e.g., an incomplete or partial dislocation), it is still a widely popular way to describe the primary condition most chiropractors treat.

So what exactly causes a subluxation?

In 1895, the founder of chiropractic, D.D. Palmer, delivered the first adjustment to a man by the name of Harvey Lillard. Harvey was experiencing partial deafness that began shortly after hearing a popping noise in his spine. Suspecting the two phenomena might be related, Palmer applied a single thrust to the upper part of Lillard’s back; to their surprise, Harvey’s hearing improved dramatically.

Palmer went on to investigate the relationship of the spine to function throughout the body, developing what we know today as chiropractic. In his original book, “The Chiropractic Adjuster,” Palmer described what he and contemporaries were calling subluxations of the spine; mal-positions of bone leading to various dysfunctions in the body.

At the time, most chiropractors believed that a subluxation was akin to a foot on the garden hose; the bones of the spine were squeezing nerves of the central nervous system and causing a lack of nervous system activity thus leading to pathology. The solution, then, was to apply a corrective thrust to release the mechanical pressure from the nerve, thereby restoring normal function.

But what exactly was the cause? In Lillard’s case, it appeared to be from a traumatic event (sudden bending). Other cases, however, presented without any such obvious physical trauma. D.D.’s theory was that disruption to the regular activity of the nervous system stemmed from three primary sources, which came to be known as the “Three T’s,”—trauma, thoughts, and toxins.

Today, over one hundred years of research and clinical experience teaches us that much of what D.D. Palmer theorized was correct; insults to the nervous system produce wide reaching effects that go far beyond the more common complaints of neck and back pain. Our understanding of the chiropractic “subluxation” is far more complex than Palmer’s contemporaries ever imagined: it is not just a simple “bone out of place,” but a complex neurological dysfunction mediated by inflammatory chemicals, joint receptors, and neurological feedback loops.

In this series, we will be discussing what each of the “Three T’s” means and how we go about addressing them. Stay tuned for our next post: Stress to the Nervous System – Trauma.

Experiencing symptoms of your own? Call our Winter Park office today at (321) 972-2008 to make an appointment! Also feel free to leave us a comment below.

Paladin Chiropractic

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