The killer subluxation can be very painful, but it is treatable with chiropractic care.
A spinal subluxation, in medical terms, is “the presence of an incomplete or partial dislocation of a joint or organ”. The World Health Organization recognizes that medical definition, but also acknowledges that there is a chiropractic subluxation, as well. The WHO differentiates the medical subluxation as one that is “significant structural displacement…visible on static imaging”. Medical subluxations can be orthopedic, ophthalmologic, or dental.1 The classic straight chiropractic definition of a vertebral subluxation complex is that there is “a dysfunctional biomechanical spinal segment which is fixated”. Additionally, this dysfunction is said to alter neurological functioning and is thought to “lead to neuromusculoskeletal and visceral disorders”. Traditional straight chiropractors believe that a subluxation “interferes with the body’s function and its innate intelligence”.2
What is a Killer Subluxation?
Straight chiropractors believe that subluxations can be killers. At one point, there was an ad called “Killer Subluxation” warning patients “if uncorrected, these life-threatening conditions may be fatal”.3 While this caused some issues between the American Medical Association and the American Chiropractic Association, JC Smith, DC wrote a piece on “Killer Subluxation” that discussed the possibility that the ad “may not be that far from the truth”. He noted that there is some “scientific basis for ‘killer subluxation’ causing sudden heart attack”. In a 1989 article in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Mark E Jarmel, DC, suggested that anecdotal reports in the osteopathic and chiropractic professions have indicated the benefits of manipulation in managing premature ventricular contractions, arrhythmias, and coronary arterial spasm. Further, Jarmel suggested that “nerve irritation from the spine will cause heart problems”. Smith cited that some researchers have recognized that “Vagus nerve interference is a possible cause of sudden cardiac arrest”. In a 1985 article by P. Sherwood, MD, a theory was presented that coronary artery spasms cause many coronary attacks, and that the spasm is “triggered by malfunction of the sympathetic stellate ganglion”. Furthermore “upper thoracic spinal dysfunction” causes congestion and, thus, malfunctions. Spinal manipulation and massage were used in the thoracic spine to “repair damage to the facet joints in the upper cervical spine”.3
There are straight chiropractors today who focus on the killer subluxation concept. Misalignments in the spine are said to irritate the nerves and cause symptoms throughout the body, impacting organs and body systems, causing malfunction, disease, fatigue, and pain imbalance, that can “eat away at your health and vitality for years” as “silent killers”. Symptoms of subluxation are said to include dizziness, headaches, high blood pressure, earaches, blurred vision, bladder and bowel problems, irritability, leg cramps, nausea, numbness, tingling, swallowing problems, weakness, back and neck pain, shoulder pain, jaw pain, and pain in the limbs and extremities. It is said the chiropractic patients experience improvements in health, including emotional and mental health. In addition, correcting subluxations is meant to make patients snore less, sleep better, improve walking, lifting, and standing, and promote better social and sex lives. Subluxations may or may not cause pain, but they are believed, by some chiropractors, to impact the whole body, regardless of whether or not the symptoms are apparent.4
Mixed chiropractors and some others in the chiropractic field no longer use the straight definition of subluxation, and some “shun the use of the term as a diagnosis”, instead opting for the phrase “nonallopathic lesion”. In the classical chiropractic subluxation, it is believed that misalignments are the “cause of ill health and can be corrected with spinal ‘adjustments’”. This has led to some controversy in that there are current chiropractors who do not see evidence that subluxation is “associated with any disease process or of creating suboptimal health conditions requiring intervention”.5 In February 2016, Tony Hamm DC, President of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), sent out a notification that to achieve “full physician status in Medicare” it was necessary to remove “the ‘subluxation’ language in the definition of physician section” as “this language has proven to be the major barrier within HHS and CMS” and to “eliminate 40+ years of Medicare discrimination”. This was not to say that chiropractors would no longer treat subluxations. In fact, the goal was to “achieve coverage for manipulation of all areas, not simply limited to the spine”. Spinal manipulation is part of subluxation treatments. The language change was meant to “allow reimbursement for all those services that the Medicare beneficiaries…pay out of pocket”.6 Chiropractors, whether straight or mixed, agree on “the need to adjust the spine”. The killer subluxation term can be seen in another way. According to Ronald Carter, DC, MA (Past President of the Canadian Chiropractic Association), the subluxation term has divided the chiropractic profession to the point where it may the “silent killer” of the profession. He noted that basing the profession on “dogma (subluxation) has historically failed numerous times” and that “science denies subluxation…as the cause of disease”. Carter believes it is important to focus more on the idea that chiropractic works to treat some conditions and not to continue with “our obsession with subluxation rather than chiropractic care”. Carter noted that to be included in the healthcare system, therefore, it is necessary to focus on “the scientific community and the demand of the public for quality care”.7
Learn more about subluxation.