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In medicine, a subluxation is a partial dislocation or abnormal movement of a bone in a joint. For example, nursemaid's elbow[?] is the subluxation of the radial bone in the elbow. In the chiropractic system, originally developed by Daniel D. Palmer in the late 19th century, subluxation is believed to be the cause of most diseases.

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Subluxation in Chiropractic

Palmer held that certain dislocations of bones interfere with the "innate intelligence", a kind of spiritual energy dependent upon God that connects the brain to the rest of the body. He claimed that subluxations were interfering with the proper communication of this innate intelligence with the rest of the body, and that by fixing them, almost all (95%) diseases could be treated.

Over time, a small but growing number of adherents to chiropractic theory gave up on the idea of "innate intelligence" but still held that spinal bone misalignments were the cause of disease. In the early 1970s, some chiropractors began to formulate more objective criteria for diagnosing subluxations, and, in 1973, Congress passed an amendment to the Medicare Act that permitted government expenditures for chiropractic treatement of subluxations that can be seen on X-Rays.

However, undercover studies have indicated that, given the same X-Ray, no two chiropractors point to the same feature. This has led medical doctors to question chiropractic subluxation as fraudulent.

In response, in the mid-1990s the Association of Chiropractic Colleges redefined a subluxation as follows: "A subluxation is a complex of functional and/or structural and or pathological articular changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence organ system and general health." In 1997 the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research defined a subluxation as "a joint problem (whether a problem with the way the joint is functioning, a physical problem with the joint, or a combination of any of these) that affects the function of nerves and therefore affect the body's organs and general health."

However, the majority of medical doctors and scientists hold that this definition cannot have any validity, as spinal problems do not cause organ problems or problems with one's general health.

Cause of all disease

"Straight" chiropracters still deny that germs cause disease; they hold that subluxations are the cause of diseases.

In recent years a number of national chiropractic associations have developed new definitions of subluxations that have no connection with Palmer's ideas, yet also are not the same as medical subluxations.

The National Council Against Health Fraud Position Paper on Chiropractic states that:

Palmer was not employing the term "subluxation" in its medical sense, but with a new metaphysical meaning. Palmer's "subluxations" supposedly interfered with the body's expression of the Universal Intelligence (God) which Palmer dubbed the Innate Intelligence (spark of life or spirit). Thus, D.D. Palmer invented chiropractic, named it, and established a guild of practitioners to further its development. For this reason chiropractic fits the dictionary definition of a cult (i.e. a system for the cure of disease based upon dogma set forth by its promulgator) (Webster's New Seventh Collegiate Dictionary).

Further Reading

  • Foundations of Chiropractic: Subluxation, Meridel I. Gatterman, Mosby-Year Book, Inc., 1995, hardcover textbook, 487 pages, ISBN 0815135432

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