Medical Definition of Subluxation

Once again, I spent my five minutes on Facebook and found a ripe topic to share with you. There is a trend in the subluxation denier movement, to dismiss the chiropractic vertebral subluxation because chiropractors don’t use the standard medical definition of the term “subluxation.” This approach is wrong on several levels most notably that it is ahistorical and lacks adequate evidence. For those of us who aspire to being evidence-informed, this is important to discuss.

The First Call to Dismiss Subluxation because of Medical Definition

Let’s start with the literature. The first time this approach was attempted in the chiropractic literature was 1984 and 1985. That’s right – the tactic is not new. If you care about evidence, you should know your own literature.

If you study Part 9 of my new set of papers on The Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation, you will read the section called Review of Critical Literature. In that section, I point out that Brantingham proposed that the profession get rid of the term “subluxation,” because the ways in which the profession uses the term did not meet the medical definition. Without demonstrating any real perspective on the chiropractic literature up until that point, by 1988, Brantingham proposed we adopt the osteopathic term, “somatic dysfunction,” and get rid of the term subluxation.

Brantingham’s proposal was refuted by subluxation theorists from that time, namely Lantz and Keating. Lantz called him out in terms of his lack of references. Keating suggested a better approach would be to develop an operational definition of vertebral subluxation.

The Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation Stands Alone

While the profession still confronts the issues that Keating brought up, effective operational definitions are needed, we also face the same types of unsubstantiated dismissivism as Lantz critiqued.

If you read Part 10 of the papers, you will see Keating’s proposals in more detail, including his call for systematic and well-planned case studies throughout the profession. You will also learn about Boone and Dobson’s idea that we need to start with a functional definition of vertebral subluxation. That will lead to testable and multiple operational definitions. You will also learn about Kent’s proposal that multiple techniques within chiropractic should lead to different operational definitions.

This all leads to the real issue, that the chiropractic profession, which is one of the largest health professions in the world, has developed its own lexicon over the course of 125 years (give or take a few years).

To dismiss the chiropractic vertebral subluxation because you are stuck on the medical definition of the term “subluxation” is an approach lacking in evidence. An evidence-based approach to this question must include reference to the profession’s development of the term. That development is mapped out in the 10 papers, which included a history of theory and research along with the internal debates. Read it. And, don’t confuse the word subluxation with the term “chiropractic vertebral subluxation.”

Some References

Brantingham, J. A review of some current and past literature regarding basic chiropractic hypotheses. Dyn Chiropr, 2 (8) (1984), p. 6

Brantingham, J. A survey of literature regarding the behavior, pathology, etiology, and nomeclature of the chiropractic lesion. ACA J Chiropr, 19 (8) (1985), pp. 65-70

Brantingham, J. A critical look at the subluxation hypothesis. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 11 (2) (1988), pp. 130-132′

Lantz, C. A critical look at the subluxation hypothesis: to the editor. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 13 (1) (1990), p. 42

Keating, J. A critical look at the subluxation hypothesis: to the editor. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 13 (6) (1990), pp. 350-351

Brantingham, J. In reply. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 12 (2) (1989), p. 154

Senzon, S. Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation Part 10: Integrative and Critical Literature: 1996-1997. J Chiro Hum. 25(Dec) (2018), pp. 146-168.

Senzon, S. Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation Part 9: Complexes, Models, and Consensus: 1979-1995. J Chiro Hum. 2018, 25(Dec);, pp. 130-145.

Faulkner, Foley, and Senzon. Palmer Chiropractic Green Books: The Definitive Guide. The Institute Chiropractic. 2018.

Rome, P. Medical evidence recognizing the vertebral subluxation complex. CJA. 2016; 44.

Rome, P. Terminology relating to the vertebral subluxation complex and the manipulative sciences. Part 1. CJA 2017;45:73-89.

Rome, P. Terminology relating to the vertebral subluxation complex and the manipulative sciences. Part 2. CJA 2017;45:90-129.

Kent, C. Models of Vertebral Subluxation: A Review. AVSR. 1

Boone and Dobson. Vertebral Subluxation Model. AVSR. 1-3

Dealing with the Peanut Gallery

A Chiropractic History Lesson

From Simon Senzon

In the last few days I was confronted with some of the latest claims from the chiropractic peanut gallery. I am sure you know what I am talking about.

Two of the claims were from a video posted on Facebook of a chiropractor lecturing to a classroom of chiropractic students. This individual said many things that were biased and incorrect. Two of them stand out for me:

  • He stated that early chiropractic and osteopathy were the same. (That is incorrect.)
  • He also equated subluxation with a belief in God. (This is just absurd.)

Some of the confusion around these questions comes from decades of chiropractic authorities stating their opinions as facts and teaching that to students. Now those students are teaching their versions, without any evidence, to the latest generation. This practice must stop.

Let’s start with the first comment. The fact of the matter is, in the early days of the profession, the chiropractors and the osteopaths were at war for several years. Each accused the other of stealing theories and practices. A few important facts to note:

  1. D.D. Palmer was well-read in the osteopathic literature and thus was able to articulate precise differences between his theories and practices versus osteopathic approaches.
  2. Several of the early chiropractors were trained as osteopaths and found the two sciences distinct.
  3. The defense in the Morikubo trial, which was the landmark case distinguishing the two professions, successfully argued against the prosecution’s osteopathic expert witnesses. The defense demonstrated that chiropractic’s science included a unique view of the nervous system, technique included nerve tracing and a quick thrust to release nerve impingement at the IVF, neither of which was taught by osteopaths, and the philosophy of chiropractic was based on the concepts of Innate and Educated, also not taught in osteopathic schools.

As to the strange notion that vertebral subluxations has something to do with God, that is just ignorance incarnate. Anyone who states something like this demonstrates a lack of evidence about the ubiquity of vertebral subluxation theory across the entire chiropractic profession (every school) for over 100 years. Subluxation has always been viewed as the cornerstone of the profession despite the claims of a vocal minority.

On this point, I’ll refer you to two of the new papers. You should read the Introduction (Part 1), which has a section on Philosophy and Subluxation. Also read Part 8, especially the section on the distinctions made decades ago by the objective “straight” movement. From that point on, subluxation theory should be classified in terms of structure, neurology, and endogenous organization.

In terms of the early philosophical models of Innate Intelligence, psychospiritual health and wellbeing may still be studied in relation to the correction of vertebral subluxation.

Some other claims that popped up on my Facebook feed this week include at least one attempt to conflate all vitalistic perspectives with magical thinking and another attempt to conflate all subluxation-based practitioners with B.J. Palmer’s sacred trust.

Again, claims without sufficient evidence are just opinions. I have written in the past about at least five ways of thinking that might be attributed to chiropractors. I even published a chart conveying this evidence-based approach to perspectives on vitalism. Oversimplifying this issue is never going to move the profession forward. Only by embracing the complexity of these ideas might we begin to have real dialogue.

This also goes for the claims about the sacred trust and how it relates to today’s practitioners.

Finally, one other comment focused on the emphasis of the last few decades by many chiropractic researchers. Here are some additional facts:

  1. Starting in the 1970s and 1980s the research focus of much of the chiropractic profession turned away from somatic relationships between vertebral subluxation and neurodystrophic and neuropathic processes.
  2. The research in the profession up until that point was mainly focused on those areas.
  3. The shift in focus had more to do with politics, insurance reimbursement, and garnering research funding than the objective pursuit of science. (Science is always shaped by social and cultural forces.)
  4. The profession may still examine the myriad hypotheses about vertebral subluxation that have yet to be studied with modern research designs.

Some of these issues and facts were covered in my recent series of papers. Below are links to a few that are relevant. If we don’t confront the peanut gallery with evidence, the small group of academics that keep shouting opinions may impact the future of the profession.

Take care,

Simon Senzon

The Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation Part 1: Introduction –…/artic…/pii/S155634991830010X

The Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation Part 7: Technics and Models From 1962 to 1980 –…/arti…/pii/S1556349918300159…

The Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation Part 8: Terminology, Definitions, and Historicity From 1966 to 1980 –…/arti…/pii/S1556349918300160

TICVLOG Episode 8: DD Palmer BJ Palmer and the Chiropractic Profession

The relationship between D.D. Palmer, B.J. Palmer, and the chiropractic profession is fascinating. In TICVLOG Episode 8: Father and Son, I go into detail about their interactions and the impact it had. One of the most fascinating things I discovered was that the back and forth between D.D. Palmer and B.J. Palmer during the years 1908 to 1910, led to new breakthroughs in chiropractic philosophy, theory, and practice.


  • In private letters between D.D. Palmer and B.J. Palmer we learn how and why their relationship fell apart.
  • The year of 1906-1906 was a very difficult one for D.D. Palmer. It had its tragedies, blessings, and new horizons.
  • When D.D. Palmer got to Oregon in 1908, he started reading B.J. Palmer’s new books Vol 2 and Vol 3.
  • D.D.’s criticisms of B.J.’s new chiropractic ideas led to a refinement of theories for both of them.
  • The theories that emerged from that period became the foundation of the chiropractic profession.
  • D.D. Palmer’s final lectures were gathered by his wife after his death and published as a book in 1914.

Resources for this Episode:

  • D.D. Palmer’s 1914 book, The Chiropractor is available online.
  • Volume 1 was a compilation of D.D.’s articles, B.J.’s new articles, and several other authors.
  • More resources on D.D. Palmer may be found here: D.D. Palmer.
  • More resources about B.J. Palmer may be found here: B.J. Palmer.



* Music written, arranged, and performed by Dan Mills, Mark Goodell, Adam Podd

DD Palmer’s Quote to John Howard

DD Palmer wrote four letters to his student John Howard in 1906. One of these letters has a DD Palmer quote that is still used today. Palmer gave Howard his blessing. But not really.

Howard graduated from PSC in 1905 and then joined the faculty. DD Palmer’s letters encouraged Howard to start teaching. He opened the National School in 1906. The location was the Ryan Block. DD practiced, taught, and lived in that building from 1888-1902. The P.S.C. moved in 1905.

A Troubled Time for DD

The letters were written during one of DD’s most difficult times. His wife of 22 years just died. He married his fifth wife. His grandson was born. He lost at trial and went to prison for practicing medicine without a license.

After jail DD and BJ went through arbitration to protect the school. DD signed the school over to Mabel and left BJ in charge. The whole incident created a rift between DD, BJ, and their wives. DD moved to Medford, Oklahoma, where he opened a grocery store. He wrote the letters to Howard from Oklahoma. He was growing in his anger towards BJ.

The Qualified Endorsement

DD Palmer wrote to Howard, “Why should I not approve of your teaching the Science of Chiropractic…In practice and as a teacher I consider you more and better qualified than BJ and I think I know you both.”

I could write a book on the BJ bashing from this time period. That is not relevant to my main point. What matters is DD Palmer’s next quote.

He qualified his endorsement in capital letters, “I AM PLEASED TO LEARN THAT YOU ARE NOT MIXING.”

DD is plainly stating, Yes, I endorse you Howard, as long as you don’t mix chiropractic with any other therapies or the practice of medicine. That is what he meant by mixing.

As early as 1902 DD wrote of the problems with mixing other methods with chiropractic (see Zarbuck). Years later he would write, “No thank you, I do not mix, I give Chiropractic straight. If it were mixed with all the methods offered, it would soon lose its identity.”

I am NOT bringing this up to reignite old flames or even to choose sides in an old battle. I bring it up to point out how our history has been distorted. Those distortions have had consequences.

DD Palmer’s Quote Misquoted

As early as the 1920s, leaders from National were using selections from these letters in their advertising. They were trying to demonstrate that Howard was the rightful heir to the chiropractic kingdom, not BJ. And that meme still floats around today! Here’s why.

Several historians have either ignored this particular quote or twisted it. When history is misrepresented students get a skewed picture of what is real. A problem indeed.

For just one example, I will tell you about Beideman. He is my favorite offender because he didn’t just ignore the quote he created a unique and strange interpretation. Check this out:

“Those familiar with the history of chiropractic are aware that classifying all chiropractors into one of two groups (“Straights” or “Mixers”) completely politicized the entire profession early on. It may interest historians to note that D.D.’s 1906 usage of those words bore no resemblance to their more modern connotation.

It seems as though chiropractic’s discoverer used the terms straight chiropractic to mean straight truthfulness. This was in contradiction to his use of the words mixer or mixing when referring to things which were not factual.”

He created his own definition of mixing – lying. That is just incorrect.

Beideman was the official National historian. He was clearly enamored by his topic. Unfortunately, this clouded his writing and distorted history in one book and several articles. His 1996 article on The Howard Encyclopedia is another example! (Reprinted with permission by the AHC.)

Howard’s Background

Howard’s 1910 Encyclopedia was a compendium of every natural method of the day. The book also includes his writings on chiropractic and philosophy.

Howard’s embrace of all things natural started long before he sought out chiropractic.

Between 1895-1898, Howard was on a Mormon mission trip to Europe. While there he studied Kneip’s hydrotherapy. When he returned he opened the Salt Lake Sanitarium with Drs. Gowens and Miller. Howard was in charge of treatment. The facility was fully integrated with medical doctors.

Howard was one of the first in the middle chiropractic paradigm. His students would lead the medical chiropractic paradigm.

History in the Making

It is unfortunate that some of our historical accounts are jaded, distorted, and incorrect. It will take time and patience for us to right these wrongs and learn from the past. Historians of chiropractic have helped to define chiropractic. We need to hold them accountable to that important job.

My intention with these blog posts is to bring up glitches in our historical accounting. To tell stories that shed new light on why things happened the way they did. And, to interpret meaning in more complex ways.

Ideally, these posts will help you to better understand the history of ideas in chiropractic. Knowing the history of ideas and being able to situate the context of DD Palmer’s quotes will make you better at what you do. It may even help to weave the profession together around common understanding.

DD Palmer’s Books Were Inspired by Conflict

DD Palmer’s books were primarily a response to his critics, students, and colleagues. His three books were published in 1906, 1910, and 1914. Each of DD Palmer’s books represent distinct sets of ideas and conflicts. In fact, all were inspired by conflict.

One of the reasons I haven’t blogged in a while is because my time has been filled with studying DD’s collected works and the ideas that grew from them.

I decided that instead of waiting until the new program is launched I would just start blogging about my latest findings. A few ideas at a time.

Volume 1 of DD Palmer’s Books

I knew that BJ Palmer published Volume 1 of the chiropractic greenbooks after he and DD split their partnership. BJ kept both of their names on it as coauthors. They announced the book in January 1906, so they obviously started it together. According to Faulkner and Foley the two foremost scholars on Volume 1, DD was fully behind the book until the trial and all that ensued thereafter. He announced that he was leaving chiropractic and so BJ went ahead with the book, which was what his father originally wanted.

How much of the book was actually written by DD Palmer? That was my question. (Or one of them!)

In order to figure out this puzzle I read everything DD Palmer wrote prior to May 1906 when he split with BJ and headed to Oklahoma. Then I read a first edition of Volume 1. Thankfully google books has one available.  The later editions were published in 1910 and 1917. Those do not have DD’s name listed as author! BJ edited those editions and added new content.

What I discovered was pretty amazing. They hired a college professor to arrange the book. He took most of DD’s writings from their journal The Chiropractor. DD wrote articles in every issue from December 1904 until April 1906 when he was jailed for 23 days. I determined that most of the content in the book was indeed written by DD. Some of it was written as far back as 1899. Articles from other authors were used as well.

Authors of Volume 1

Some of DD’s Main Chapters

  • Chiropractic Rays of Light
  • Chiropractic Versus Therapeutics
  • Innate Intelligence
  • Luxations of the Bones Cause Disease
  • The Body is Heat By Nerves
  • Chiropractic Versus Osteopathy

Inspired by Conflict

DD really started writing in 1905. We can attribute his burst of scholarship to conflict. That was the year AP Davis published his first book on a new method called Neuropathy. Davis, an 1898 graduate from Palmer’s school, combined osteopathy, chiropractic, and several other methods. Historian Gaucher-Peslherbe wrote, “It got Palmer back to work again.”

DD did not want Davis’ theories to be the published word on his child, chiropractic. All of DD Palmer’s books were inspired by similar events and conflicts.

As you can see from two of the chapters above, he also wrote about chiropractic versus therapeutics and osteopathy. Conflict.

A Preview

In 1909, DD was settled in Portland, Oregon. He started a new journal called The Chiropractor Adjuster. His goal was to adjust the misconceptions about chiropractic in the field.  Several of the issues are preserved in the Palmer archives. Like all of DD Palmer’s books, the 1910 book was a collection of writings.

What I found amazing was that even though the 1910 book goes on to criticize many of the chiropractors of the day, the main person DD attacked during 1909 was his son. There were many reasons for this conflict. The criticisms were aimed at BJ’s first two books: Volumes 2 and 3. The books were published in 1907 and 1908. Perhaps DD got them from BJ’s students who lived in Portland.

From my reading of these criticisms it seems that DD was angry. So angry in fact, that he obviously misunderstood several of BJ’s new theories including Intellectual Adaptation and recoil.

Both Palmers developed new ideas because of this conflict. DD developed his theory of impingement in 1909. BJ introduced his theory of cord pressures in 1910.

More to Come

I will follow up very soon with more blog posts on the conflicts that inspired DD Palmer’s books. Again, my plan is to share a bit of what I am learning as I go. I hope you find this useful and helpful. Please feel free to comment and share it.

I have heard people say that these historical events are not relevant anymore or don’t matter for various reasons. They are relevant because the foundation of the chiropractic paradigm was established in these writings. DD was forced to refine and develop his ideas in significant ways. And of course, the history of chiropractic has been shaped by conflict ever since. If we are ever to move forward as a profession we need to learn from history.

An Early History of Chiropractic by Rolf Peters

Rolf Peters, DC, MCSc, FACC, FPAC, FICC, is one of the leading historians in the chiropractic profession. His new book, An Early History of Chiropractic: The Palmers and Australia, is one of a kind. The book was developed from Dr. Peters’ 500 page Masters Thesis at RMIT, which relied on at least 300 hours of research in the Palmer Archives. The book is filled with facts about the early history of chiropractic published nowhere else!

Dr. Peters’ credentials are impressive. As a chiropractic historian, he was honored in 2011 with the prestigious Lee-Homewood Award by the Association for the History of Chiropractic. Rolf was nominated by long-time Palmer archivist, Glenda Wiese. To get a real sense of Rolf’s work and the depth of his connection to the history of chiropractic, please check out his acceptance speech.*

Rolf’s teammate, co-author, editor, and soul-mate was his late wife, Mary Ann Chance, granddaughter of HC Chance, Palmer faculty (1925-1958) and close friend of B.J. Palmer. Both Mary Ann and Rolf were awarded Life Membership of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia and Palmer College’s highest Award of Fellow in the Palmer Academy of Chiropractic. Russ Gibbons, editor emeritus of the journal Chiropractic History wrote in response to one of their many articles,

Rolf is a 1957 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. (Rolf’s roommate at Palmer was Reggie Gold – click here to read Rolf’s tribute to Reggie.)

As early as 1959, Rolf’s excellence was recognized by the International Chiropractor’s Association. His first office in Beverly Hills was named office of the month. After a brief two-year practice in California, Rolf moved to Australia, where he practiced for fifty years.

I have been following Rolf’s writings for many years. He and Mary Ann were editors of the Chiropractic Journal of Australia (since 1983) and founders of the Association for Chiropractic History – Australia (in 1991). Their writings on the early years of the Palmer school and faculty are a resource for the profession.

Rolf granted me permission to post several of his articles here. My favorites include the lost years of 1902-1904, the article about D.D. Palmer’s death, and their wonderful yearly series looking back 100 years. One of the most important impacts on my recent research developed from their article on the year 1907 and details about the landmark Morikubo case.**

An Early History of Chiropractic: The Palmers and Australia, is a summation of all of the Peters-Chance articles and more! Rolf started with a quest to understand how chiropractic developed in Australia. That simple question led to the most detailed and significant book on the early history of chiropractic and the Palmers to date. This book will dispel many chiropractic myths, from what chiropractors treated to what really happened in the “lost years.”

Best of all, the book describes fascinating and parallel paths of chiropractic history. Chiropractic in Australia, unlike in the United States, was dominated by Palmer graduates and thus chiropractic was defined according to the detection and correction of vertebral subluxation using instrumentation, x-rays, and hands. Another Australian chiropractic historian, Bolton referred to this as “Mainstream chiropractic” and chiropractors who included other modalities as “second-stream.” We have a great deal to learn from this book.

I consider this book volume 11 in the White Books series. I am honored to publish it.

Book orders may be placed through:

SenzonOnline or Amazon.


*Reprinted by permission of the Association for the History of Chiropractic.

**Reprinted by permission of Dr. Peters.

Chiropractic Generations and Waves

It has been quite some time since I have taken the show on the road. Next week will definitely make up for it.
Sunday, June 1st, I will teach an eight hour course at Life West! The topic is the new Gen/Wave model I developed. The model has really been in development for about 15 years. I am excited to share how the pieces have come together so that participants can gain new insights about the philosophy and have new tools in practice and life.

Below is one of the animations I am working on for the presentation.

The days before my eight hour course, I gather at CIIS for the first annual Society for Consciousness Studies conference. I am excited to spend time with scholars who focus on the exploration of consciousness as an interior. What a blessing to be a part of that!

Monday, June 2nd, I am off to Seattle to talk with some wonderful chiropractors. The Chiropractic Philosophy Forum meets at the SeaTac Double Tree. For info please call: 425-251-5715.

Wednesday, June 4th, off to Los Angeles with Billy D and the Dead Chiropractor’s Society. That will be a night to remember. Come early and stay late!
Thursday, I may have the historic privilege to teach some students on the LACC campus. Stay tuned.

© 2020 The Institute Chiropractic - Senzon Learning, Inc.