If you have heard the word “chiropractor” then you have most likely heard the word “subluxation”. Some clinicians call it “aberrant joint function” or “segmental dysfunction” or “vertebral subluxation complex”. The nomenclature may change, but the concept is the same. If you have areas of “joint restriction” then you are going to cause some accelerated wear and tear on your body. So for the sake of ease, let’s just refer to this as a subluxation from here on out.
Chiropractic texts define subluxation as “a motion segment in which alignment, movement integrity, and/or physiologic function are altered although contact between the joint surfaces remains intact.” (Gatterman, 1995, p. 6). Unfortunately, many patients suffering with the negative effects of subluxation present to their medical doctor. If the concept of subluxation and chiropractic manipulation is approached they are often scoffed and rebuked for even considering this approach. Yet neuromusculoskeletal pain is the underlying cause for over 14% of office visits today (American College of Rheumatology) and is often mistreated with most conventional medicine approaches.
The most commonly employed interventions are 1) rest and “watchful waiting”, 2) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and cyclooxygenase-2-inhibitors (“coxibs”), and 3) surgery. (Vasquez 3). NSAIDs are considered the “first line” therapy for musculoskeletal disorders by allopaths despite data showing that NSAIDs offer no long term benefit on osteoarthritis, or musculoskeletal pain. It has been well established that NSAIDs inhibit cartilage formation, accelerate joint degradation and are responsible for more than 16,000 gastrohemorrhagic deaths and 100,000 hospitalizations each year! (Singh Am J Med 1998).
So in other words, this approach will allow clinicians to stand by and observe the continued degeneration until surgical intervention is the only option, and just so we don’t have to wait too long we will add some NSAIDs to the mix to accelerate the whole process. Excuse me for being so facetious, but I see this happen on a daily basis, and it gets frustrating.
In chiropractic, the “goal and means of musculoskeletal treatment is to address the patient’s injury or disorder by simultaneously alleviating pain with the use of natural, noninvasive, low-cost, and low-risk interventions while improving the patient’s overall health, preventing future health problems, and “upgrading” the patient’s overall paradigm of health maintenance and disease prevention from one that is passive and reactive to one that is empowered and pr0-active” (Vasquez, 2007, p. 4)
So I came across another great statement. This published in an allopathic medical text entitled, Frontera: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The statement is long and I want to parse it with a little discussion along the way for clarification.
• “The mechanisms underlying cervical degenerative disease are complex and multifactorial.” Where it says cervical degeneration just plug in subluxation. Wear and tear in the cervical spine has the same pathophysiology as wear and tear in the lumbar spine, etc. The causes of these health issues are complex not from one single source. It really is impossible to tell a person that this caused all their problems.
• “Genetics, aging, and attrition may all play an important role.” Now when we see the word genetics, we automatically assume that we are stuck with this and there is nothing we can do about it. To the contrary, the exciting field of epigenetics tells us that we can alter our genetic expression by the lifestyle choices we do, or in some cases don’t, make. Attrition is defined as erosion by friction. What leads to joint friction? How about altered biomechanics, a joint just not moving like it should be moving.
• “It is believed that disc degeneration results in altered, abnormal load distribution, which in turn leads to a cascade of structural changes that affect the various components of the spinal column.” When your spine begins to move outside of its set appropriate movement patterns problems begin to start.
• “This leads to structural changes that may change spinal posture and stability and may compromise neural function.” What do we have here? Sounds like another definition of subluxation to me. Movement integrity is lost and it effects the nervous system and the entire body system. So what do we look for when we are addressing our patient’s needs? We observe their posture, we observe their spinal stability and we observe the nervous system integrity. Why? We would rather be pro-active and alter a negative course than stand by and simply “watch and wait” for the problem to get worse…which it will without appropriate intervention.
• “The pathomechanisms underlying axial and radicular pain are still not completely clear. Increased vascularization after discal herniation and the presence of inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, interleukin-6, matrix metalloproteinase, and others play an important role in the pathogenesis of pain.” I threw this last statement in here, not to confuse you with big words, but to let you know that there are other factors that play into pain. Many of these are inflammatory markers. The good news is that there are many safe, effective, and natural substances that you can take to modify these chemical markers and reduce pain. These approaches won’t accelerate joint damage, but will actually halt and restore the joint, and you won’t end up in the ER with a bleeding gut.
So you are left with a couple of options on how you want to treat your body. The approach we believe in and advocate is a pro-active, patient empowering, and safe way to decrease pain, restore health, prevent disease and promote true wellness. What choice will you make for you and your family?