Speranskian Subluxation Theory

I published a paper last month on chiropractic and systems science. Please read it when you get chance. During my research I was amazed by the impact A.D. Speransky had on subluxation theory.

I coined the term Speranskian Subluxation Theory to capture a class of thinking about subluxation.

A.D. Speransky

A.D. Speransky wrote A Basis for the Theory of Medicine in 1936.

As the head of The Institute of General and Experimental Pathology at the All Union Institute of Experimental Medicine in Leningrad Speransky had a huge impact on Russian physiology and chiropractic.

Speransky’s concept “neurodystrophy” was developed based on years of empirical research with animal subjects. His hypothesis was elevated to theory. His theory was congruent with the chiropractic paradigm.

The Palmer School’s Early Integration of Speranksy

An article by O. Hamilton Wright was published in the The Chiropractor in 1937. It was the first mention of Speransky’s book in the chiropractic literature. The Chiropractor was a publication of the Palmer School of Chiropractic from 1904-1961. Hamilton wrote several articles in the late 1930s on everything from NCM to philosophy.

Hamilton’s pioneering article called “Take Your Choice” examined some of the scientific literature that supported the Life principle. He also described some of B.J. Palmer’s research in the clinic. Toward the end of the article he mentioned Speransky’s observation that the nervous system played an integrative role in disease processes.

In another article called “Unfinished Business” published in 1938, Wright wrote that Speransky’s book “substantiated the Chiropractic principle.” This was the real start of Speranskian Subluxation Theory.

In 1938, B.J. Palmer mentioned Speransky in Vol. 20, which was a text about his research in the clinic. He wrote that Speransky and Crile proved the following statement,

“Any agency, and by this is meant whether given, taken, or received internally, or taken or received externally, regardless of whether a chemical, manual, or physical means, whether a material substance or an abstract, which seemingly modifies, amends, abridges, or changes function, does so not because it actually changes function direct, but that it modifies, amends, abridges, or changes quantity energy flow by blocking either efferent or afferent sides of the cycle behind functional activity and thus indirectly affects function.”

Palmer thoroughly integrated Speransky’s work in Vol. 25 with about 200 pages of quotes from A Basis for the Theory of Medicine. (I have written about Palmer’s integration of Crile’s theories elsewhere.)

Bernard Lubka wrote the first chiropractic review of Speransky’s book. The review was published in The Chiropractor in 1939. Lubka suggested that chiropractic was the logical missing link in Speransky’s research. Several other chiropractors from R.J. Watkins to Clarence Weiant reviewed the book and later integrated it into chiropractic subluxation theory.

Speranskian Subluxation Theory

J.R. Verner was one of the leading chiropractic theorists from the last century. He first wrote about Speransky in 1939. After the publication of his influential book The Science and Logic of Chiropractic in 1941 the profession soon adopted Speranskian research to support and expand subluxation theory.

Verner wrote, “With Speransky, the chiropractor holds that an intact nervous system is a sine qua non to health, and infection is no exception. The basic principle of chiropractic is that structural faults may interfere with normal nerve function…Chiropractic restores normal innervation.” This leads to conditions of health.

The incredible impact of Speransky on the chiropractic paradigm was pervasive. In the 1950s and 1960s subluxation theorists from several schools adopted Speransky. The consensus was that the chiropractic adjustment dissociates or disrupts the neurodystrophy or the neuro-pathic-syndrome or the neuropathy (as it was described in Segmental Neuropathy).

The Future of Speranskian Subluxation Theory

In the 1970s and 1980s, Speransky and the chiropractic references integrating his ideas were commonly cited in the literature. And yet, in the last two decades such references were cited less and less. This may have been related to some incorrect descriptions of the term neurodystrophy. For example, in Janse’s 1975 address at the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, he described it in terms of trophic disturbances rather than a systemic neurological syndrome. It may have also been due to a shift in the profession away from subluxation’s influence on somatic and visceral pathophsyiology. That shift was described by Masarsky in his book Somatovisercal Aspects of Chiropractic.

It is time we reintegrate Speranskian Subluxation Theory into the chiropractic discourse. Every student and every chiropractor might learn a great deal from studying Palmer, Verner, Weiant, Watkins, Homewood, Harper, and the many others who described similar ideas.

Speranskian Subluxation Theory is not a new subluxation theory but a class of theories. It brings together all of the approaches throughout chiropractic’s history from EVERY SCHOOL. They viewed the subluxation as a disruptive process in the nervous system. It was viewed as a patho-genic process that led to adverse neurological consequences. The chiropractic adjustment was viewed as one way to disrupt this pathophysiological cascade and restore the neurological integrity.

This type of common ground is one way for the profession to join together and forge ahead.

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  1. I know having this perspective in school would have been both fascinating and valuable for me as a chiro student. There is so much richness here for chiropractic moving into the future. Thank you!

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