Dr Coburn's Blog

Thoughts and advice from chiropractor, Dr Wendy Coburn

A Neurological Snapshot of the Subluxation

Story at-a-glance 

  1. Negative thoughts result in a heightened sympathetic nervous system. They also increase the tone of the accessory muscles of respiration, affect the head position and the cervical spine and cause vestibular compensation.
  2. So, if someone has forward head posture, fixated upper costals, and subluxations throughout their spine, it could affect their respiration, heart rate, and digestive secretions.
  3. Adverse stress shifts the focus to a more negative health outcome, with an increase in muscle tone that alters normal joint function – what we call a subluxation. Subluxation can represent the downstream manifestation of negative or adverse stress.
  4. As chiropractors, we are driven to find out what may help the adjustment hold, and also what may be causing the subluxation.


    Time and time again I have read articles in both the indexed literature and popular press that in one way or another address the subluxation. From Rome’s work on the nearly 300 synonyms for the subluxation to the various institutions that consider the subluxation to be only a historical concept and should be abandoned for clinical practice. Let me take a stab at the topic and see where we end up. I’ll try not to bore you with a litany of scientific references as you can easily find those in the Subluxation Summit that I participated in a few months ago (I & 2) but rather motivate a more visceral response in your thinking.  

     Many of us have discussed at one time or another the impact of traumas, thoughts, and toxins on neurological health and well-being. Maybe those weren’t the exact words used but I think you’ll get the gestalt. If we focus on “thoughts” for a moment, how do thoughts affect our nervous system. Well, for one, negative thoughts can elevate the rates of our heart and lungs, decrease our digestive secretions, and increase the tone in our flexor compartments. While on the other hand positive thoughts can relax our heart and lungs, increase our digestive secretions, and relax the hypertonic flexors. This has been shown in multiple studies across the indexed literature.  

    With the above being said, let’s get back to the subluxation and for a moment let’s pontificate on the idea that we are being adversely stressed either by finances, work, or a less than optimal relationship. How does that affect our autonomic nervous system? Would our thoughts be considered negative or positive? I’m hoping that most of you would reason towards a heightened sympathetic nervous system and lean towards the notion of those thoughts being negative.

    Now, to continue with the bigger picture and stay within the concept of a snapshot, elevated respirations would require increased muscular activity and energy expenditure. We would facilitate the sternocleidomastoids and scalenes to assist with respirations, thereby increasing tone, adversely causing change in position of the head and then the cervical spine upon the cervicothoracic junction, and then causing vestibular compensation as a result of the pelvo-ocular response with an anterior pelvis. So, help me out, have any of you reading this had a patient with forward head posture, fixated upper costals, and subluxations throughout the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines? Pretty good bet that their respirations, heart rate, and digestive secretions were not where they optimally should be. But you let me know what is common to your practice. Anyone have patients with chronic fatigue, sleep apnea, irritable bowel, leaky gut, brain fog, peripheral neuropathy and NO subluxations????

    Back to the snapshot idea, bones form joints, muscles move joints, and nerves control the tone of muscles, right? One approach would be – adverse stress shifts the focus to a more negative health outcome, with an increase in muscle tone that alters the normal angulation of the articulation, this we call subluxation. Subluxation can represent the downstream manifestation of negative or adverse stress. Subluxation is associated with abnormal joint function, muscle tone, and blood supply. The patient may complain of somatic discomfort or not. Whether they do have complaints or not should not be the driving factor behind wellness. A subluxation represents interference in the normal function of the nervous system. A properly trained chiropractor knows the importance of detecting and correcting subluxations wherever they may be. Now the challenge is two-fold, one – will the adjustment make the change the body needs, and two – what is the causation to the subluxation? If the adjustment does not hold to a reasonable measure established by the chiropractor then he / she is driven to find out why and seek additional means to establish the goal. What is the causation of the subluxation will be a greater challenge. Are your patients adversely stressed, sleep deprived, sedentary, sitting too much, malnourished, or spending too much time behind an electronic screen? This is where you make the call. Your patients, your practice – there are too many subluxations and not enough chiropractors!! Subluxations represent interference, chiropractors remove subluxations.

    by Professor Michael Hall

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