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How and Why Does Chiropractic Work?

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How and Why Does Chiropractic Work?

The Chiro.Org Blog

SOURCE:   A Chiro.Org Editorial

There is no more hotly debated topic in our profession than the huge variety of answers to the question:

What is the Vertebral Subluxation Complex” (or VSC)?   However, this is not the place to debate philosophy.

All of us have observed significant improvements in patient’s health when we adjust them. So, what are we to conclude when a patient, who has been diagnosed with asthma, and has been using steroid inhalants, suddenly does not need to use their meds any more? Did chiropractic *cure* asthma?   NO!   The reality is that the patient never had asthma to begin with!

Medical diagnosis is based upon the same concept as playing that old TV game show “Name That Tune!”.   If the patient presents with reduced inspiration or expiration, wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing, then the answer is? Asthma!

Well, let’s think about this from a chiropractic standpoint. The smooth muscles in the lung are controlled by the nervous system. If a subluxation causes those muscles to contract, then inspiration and expiration is reduced. This leads to congestion in the lung because it’s more difficult to cough. The rest of the symptoms naturally evolve from there.

If any of this sounds remotely interesting to you, then you want to read Dale Nansel, Ph.D’s fascinating article:
Somatic Dysfunction and the Phenomenon of Visceral Disease Simulation as it dissects the older theories of subluxation and then discusses the the most current neurologic theories that explain WHY chiropractic gets such remarkable results.


About the Author:

I was introduced to Chiro.Org in early 1996, where my friend Joe Garolis helped me learn HTML, the "mark-up language" for websites. We have been fortunate that journals like JMPT have given us permission to reproduce some early important articles in Full-Text format. Maintaining the Org website has been, and remains, my favorite hobby.


  1. John August 21, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Since somatic dysfunction seems to exist, I think it’s now important for researchers to determine how common the phenomenon is and, in order to triage patients properly, in which cases chiropractic might make a difference. And, as you point out, visceral disease simulation and visceral disease are two different things, something often forgotten by chiropractors in the field.

  2. Frank August 21, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Hi John

    I’m curious how you determined that this is something “often forgotten” by DCs?

    The Conclusion of the article states that: The proper differential diagnosis of somatic vs. visceral dysfunction represents a challenge for both the medical and chiropractic physician. This article was penned by a DC, not an MD. I propose (opinion) that DCs are much sharper at making this distinction than MDs are.

    Medicine has a worse track record because of their incompetence in NMS diagnosis.

  3. John August 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm


    Well, what would your estimation be of the number of DC’s that still think all dis-ease comes from the spine? And would you say that by dis-ease they mean visceral disease or visceral disease simulation? And do you think most are actually worried about the distinction?

    And how do you make that distinction with patients in your office? I happen to think that’s a complicated question. Even if someone comes in with stomach pain/bloating that responds to manipulation that may very well be somato-visceral, it is not necessarily so. Also, in an ideal world it would be more cost-effective to triage patients before treatment.

  4. Frank August 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Hi John

    These are great questions. I don’t think it’s possible to determine how many DCs maintain an antiquated point of view about the VSC (or whatever researchers wish to call it!), and I’m even less clear how important that knowledge would be.

    As for patient education issues (the little sister of Informed Consent), I suspect that most DCs provide a simplified explanation of somatic dysfunction… examples such as the “foot on the hose” , or my favorite “if you have a rock in your shoe, and your foot hurts, do you need to take aspirin…or get a massage?”. These simple explanations probably abound, but I really don’t see the harm in that either.

    Obviously we would have a very different discussion with a colleague than we would a patient. So, I guess we first need to determine, who is our target audience, before we lock and load.

  5. Dr. Joe Wood December 20, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I think some of the things in SOT are pretty remarkable in the viscero-somatic phenomenon as discussed in CMRT and the Categories.

    Dr. David Rozeboom over at the SacralOccipitalTechnique forum on Yahoo groups has plenty of information cataloged that Dejarnette wrote.

    While I am not saying anyone has to do SOT I find the writings fascinating.

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