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What is A Subluxation?

What is A Subluxation?

In chiropracticvertebral subluxation is a set of signs and symptoms of the spinal column.

A lesion or dysfunction in a joint or motion segment in which alignment, movement integrity and/or physiological function are altered, although contact between joint surfaces remains intact. It is essentially a functional entity, which may influence biomechanical and neural integrity.

Those chiropractors who assert this concept also add a visceral component to the definition. Chiropractors maintain that a vertebral subluxation complex is a dysfunctional biomechanical spinal segment which is fixated. Chiropractors additionally assert that the dysfunction actively alters neurological function, which in turn, is believed to lead to neuromusculoskeletal and visceral disorders. The chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex has been a source of controversy since its inception in 1895 due to its metaphysical origins and claims of far reaching effects on health and disease.   The term itself was first used by attorney Tom Morris in 1906 to differentiate chiropractic from medicine, in a court of law.


A recent research study puts an interesting perspective on the chiropractic subluxation. Hill's criteria are the most commonly used epidemiologic model for suggesting a causal link for any diagnostic or treatment approach. There is a significant lack of evidence in the literature to fulfill Hill's criteria of causation with regards to the chiropractic subluxation. No supportive evidence is found for the chiropractic subluxation being associated with any disease process or of creating suboptimal health conditions requiring intervention. Regardless of popular appeal this leaves the subluxation construct in the realm of unsupported speculation. This lack of supportive evidence suggests the subluxation construct has no valid clinical applicability. This lack of crucial supportive epidemiologic evidence prohibits the accurate promulgation of the chiropractic subluxation. Around 30% of Chiropractors believe in the subluxation as a cause of ‘disease. However it is an archaic disease model from the 1800’s that remains in the language of chiropractic still today, and some chiropractors find it to be an easier explanation of a more complex movement and environmental disorder that leads to pain and dysfunction. Perhaps it may be easier for some to continue to use the term subluxation as it is more easily explainable to the public, also other hold onto the term ‘subluxation’ as a uniquely identifiable to the profession of chiropractic and try to honour the professions founder who understood energy (much like the simple explanation in acupuncture meridians) but not the science behind the results they were getting. Most chiropractors understand it is not the cause of disease and many are talented enough and committed to understand and manage the complexity of the disease process.  Whilst the concept of subluxation is tired to the history of chiropractic, its innate boardness demonstrates it ineffective nature as a diagnosis in the twenty-first century and the current health care system.

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