To understand chiropractic and its place in the wellness model and health care, we first need to understand 4 important ideas:
1. What health is
2. What the nervous system’s role is
3. What a subluxation or obstacle is
4. What the stress cycle/mode and balance are
Most people accept that health is their most important asset, however when asked to define it they will struggle. Typically health is defined as being free of pain or symptoms. While symptoms are important, they are rarely the problem but rather the body’s call for help, for change. Symptoms are also the last to appear and the first to disappear in most disease processes. With heart disease or cancer for example, we ‘feel’ healthy for years before symptoms arrive, but are we? A working definition of health is a prerequisite for it to be actively pursued and enjoyed.
Health is not merely the absence of symptoms but rather a condition of wholeness where all cells, systems, organs and structures of the body are functioning 100% all of the time.
This is my preferred definition even it is fundamentally flawed in that we don’t know if everything is functioning 100%. As a result – our dependance on symptoms as a guide. On the other hand, we do know what makes us function. Understanding this, in my opinion, is the key to all decisions that follow regarding wellness and our health.
The nervous system is the master system and is responsible for the control, coordination and function of every cell, structure, system and organ in the body.
Without a nervous system there is no life or function and with one, there is. The amount of life and function depends on the quality of the nervous system, the quality of the body, and the quality of their communication.
A nervous system free of interference is the fundamental concept in chiropractic.
Lets continue tying this together.
A subluxation is classically defined as interference to the nervous system caused by the malposition or lack of proper motion of a spinal vertebra
Chiropractic is classically defined as the science, art and philosophy of finding and correcting subluxations
A chiropractic adjustment is classically defined as the art of removing subluxations, by hand, at the spinal level
An adjustment, not a chiropractic adjustment, is defined as a small alteration or movement to achieve a desired fit, appearance or result. This accurately describes our body work.
Having understood these concepts, the relationship between spinal structure/posture and nerve function must be determined in order to validate chiropractic theory, but not chiropractic practice. We know that structure determines function, be it a chair, a tooth brush, a house or the spine, so let’s now look at how spinal structure affect the nervous system, our emotions, ability to combat disease and our quality of life.
Many illnesses in children have their origin in imperfect body mechanics
– Nicholas Audrey, 1740
In 49 of 50 cadavers studied, Dr. Henry Windsor found 139 diseased organs, including heart, lungs, livers, intestines, prostate and kidneys. He further found that the nerves that supplied these organs came from areas of the spine with abnormal curvature. He concluded that structural problems preceded the diseased organs.
– The Medical Times, November 1921
Visceral problems caused by a misaligned pelvis include incontinence, constipation, dysmenorrhoea, impotence, sexual dysfunction, recurrent cystitis and urinary tract infection
– Professor Wolf Schamberger
A well-poised body means a machine working perfectly, with the least amount of muscular effort, and therefore better health and strength for daily life.
– Goldthwaite in the 1930s, in his classic book Essentials of Body Mechanics.
The beginning of the disease process begins with postural distortions
– Hans Selye, Nobel Prize nominee, 1949
The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for healing, metabolism and thought
– Roger Sperry, Phd, Nobel prize for physiology, 1981
Posture affects and moderates every physiological function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headaches, mood, blood pressure, pulse and lung capacity are among functions most easily influenced by posture
– American journal of pain management, 1994
Improvement in skeletal alignment frees up energy for metabolism, breathing and movement.
– Izabella Jónás, PhD, Kinesiologist, Yoga & Movement Therapy
For a contemporary look at the brain/body communication let us look at the signal tower and cell phone. The tower always has 4 bars while the cell phone, depending on whats in the way, receives between 0 and 4. Regardless of our political persuasion, we all agree that a cell phone works best with 4 bars of information.
Now switch the brain with the signal tower, and the body with the cell phone. The brain has 4 bars however, depending what’s in the way the body does not.
Again, and regardless of our persuasion, we can agree that the body functions best with 4 bars of information, and that just like a cell phone, it can receive less.
How does the body receive less ‘bars’ of information?
The spine is the highway upon which the nervous system travels.
The better the highway, the better the travel.
Being that the spine is freely movable and due to its function of protecting the spinal cord and at the same time creating openings for nerves to exit and communicate with the body, it has the ability to affect nerve function, the conversation, positively or negatively.
The amount of interference caused by compromised spinal structure can be as serious as a fracture with paralysis, as painful as sciatica or as simple as an ‘asymptomatic’ misalignment that over time creates imbalance and organic dysfunction, as highlighted by Dr. Windsors studies.
Having addressed health, the nervous system and the subluxation, the crucial balance between stress and relaxation need to be addressed.
When we consider that we are exposed to as many as 50 stress responses and day, added to mounting global stress, and we understand the associated chemical changes and loss of inherent balance in our bodies, we further understand that subluxations become embedded and that healing is not possible.
In this state of sustained stress, where stress is essentially normal, no growth or healing is possible. It is this state of chronic stress with it’s associated biochemistry that needs to be broken – change is needed – before any magic can happen. The easiest way to break pathological cycles is via the body. Breaking conscious and subconscious cycles are attainable just harder, or we would all be perfect.
It is clear that the chiropractic adjustment has the ability to break this cycle and as such, allows the body a moment of clarity, motion & space, where it can start prioritising it’s healing and recuperative responsibilities.
In essence, it re-boots.
Chiropractic is uncomplicated, logical and natural. It is for anyone and everyone and can be used on a crisis or lifestyle basis.
Just as you do not need tooth pain to brush your teeth or to be overweight to exercise, you do not need symptoms to see a doctor of chiropractic. A desire to live and express life fully is all that is required.
(For a well balanced commentary on posture and health, referencing some of Dr. Sperry’s work, look at www.chiro.org).