Subluxation at Birth: The Effect on the Fate of Humanity
By: Eric J. McKillican, DC, LCP, FICPA
I have heard it said, “Nature needs no help, just no interference.” To watch the process of a developing child puts me in awe of the incredible power and intent that nature has. At the moment the child is born, however, we begin to interfere with that awesome power. The results of that interference are inevitable. To the individual this means a life of dis-ease. On a global scale this means the world is being run by sick, unhealthy people. If we are going to change the world then, we must begin by correcting the interference and maintaining a subluxation-free life. I often imagine what this world would be like if the awesome power that created children was never interfered with throughout their lives. What might this world be like? B.J. Palmer said, “Get the big idea and all else follows.” How does this Big Idea influence the fate of humanity?
The Vertebral Subluxation
D.D Palmer is credited with the discovery of the vertebral subluxation. [Barge, 1996, 116] The vertebral subluxation is the way a chiropractor describes the effects traumas, thoughts or toxins have on a spine resulting in interference to the transmission of mental impulses. An allopathic description of the vertebral subluxation uses components to outline the physiologic effect of what happens within the vertebrae and surrounding structures. It has been called the vertebral subluxation complex.
The science of chiropractic deals with the relationship between the articulations of the skeleton and the nervous system, and the role of this relationship in the restoration and maintenance of health. Of primary concern to chiropractic are abnormalities of structure and function of the vertebral subluxation. The subluxation complex includes any alteration of biomechanical and physiological dynamics of contiguous spinal structures which can cause neuronal disturbances. [Barge, 1996, 115-116]
I was first introduced extensively to the components of the vertebral subluxation complex by Dr. Joseph Flesia. Understanding the importance of the physiologic reaction that takes place when a spinal injury occurs will also stress the importance of checking our children within moments of their birth in order to prevent them from becoming subluxated for life. Dr. Flesia said to me that true wellness care begins at birth. Anything else is working to restore what has already been lost. [Flesia, 1998]
There are five components of the vertebral subluxation complex. Simply put, when a spinal injury occurs, it sets off a chain reaction from one component to the next resulting in interference to the transmission of mental impulses. Physically the spinal joints become injured, nerves become pinched or irritated, muscles go into spasm or weaken, and swelling infiltrates the injured areas. If left uncorrected, the body adapts to the injured area and function is altered permanently.
I focus on the physical components of the vertebral subluxation complex to make a very clear point that the time in which we have to completely correct a subluxation is limited. Principle number 6 states that there is no process that does not require time. [Stephenson, 1948] It takes time to heal, it also takes time for the body to weaken and dis-ease. The time in which we have to completely correct vertebral subluxation becomes more and more precious with every day that passes. A study by T. Videman, M.D. gives us a very clear time line from when a joint first becomes immobilized.
After two weeks of immobilization, the first signs of eburnation appear in subchondral bone, along with sclerosis and remodeling of the metaphyseal bone. Such changes are not reversible. [Videman, 1987, 224]
This means that if a spinal joint is injured we can see the first signs of degenerative changes to the injured area within two weeks. These changes may be permanent, and the chance of the injury becoming chronic increases with every day the child is not checked and adjusted for subluxation. He goes on to say:
When the adverse effects of immobilization have already become apparent, the earlier they are treated the better. The evidence reviewed shows clearly that early mobilization is essential. [Videman, 1987, 227]
Dr. Fred Barge (1996) supports the necessity of time in the healing process.
Chiropractic science does not offer a quick fix, it works with nature to restore normalcy. Nature takes time, healing takes time and there is really no way to speed up this normal process. Doctors can remove obstacles to healing thus facilitating it, but truly only the body heals, so “Be a Patient, Patient!” [Barge, 1996]
Subluxation from Traditional Birthing Positions: Cause and Effect
Principle 17 states that every effect has a cause and every cause has effects. [Stephenson, 1927] Subluxation at birth does occur and is primarily due to the current obstetrical procedures routinely used today. Modern medicine has taken the natural and normal physiological event of childbirth and turned it into a codependent nine-month disease, relying mainly on the medical doctor to perform the delivery during which the head of the child is firmly gripped and rotational and tractional forces are applied.
The current birthing position, known as the supine lithotomy position, is the reason for dependency on the medical establishment. This position requires the birthing mother to be placed on her back with her feet in stirrups, forcing her to push the child out of the birth canal without the aid of gravity. Since this birthing position goes against a mother’s normal physiological innate abilities, the risk for intervention increases drastically. Pain and discomfort are increased and labor times are extended; thus, making it necessary for the doctor to intervene in the delivery process. This intervention by the medical doctor drastically increases the risk of vertebral subluxation to the newborn child. Dr. Mendelsohn states:
The supine lithotomy position is the basis for most of the intervention that is routine in modern obstetrical practice. It has effectively deprived women of all control over their childbirth experience. It has also made having babies infinitely more difficult, perilous, and painful, and provided obstetricians with countless seemingly rational reasons to come to the mother’s aid. [Mendelsohn, 1982, 152]
Interventions can lead to more interventions, each one potentially more dangerous to the mother and child.
There is evidence that obstetric interventions in labour tend to lead from one to another. Women who have labour induced need more help with pain relief, epidurals lead to more instrumental births… [Johanson & Newburn, 2001, 1143]
The word intervention is used in the medical literature to describe a seemingly harmless approach to help the mother cope with her delivery. However, the medical definition of intervention clearly states what the true intent is:
Intervention: the act or fact of interfering with a condition to modify it or with a process to change its course… (italics added) [Webster, 1985, 345]
As chiropractors, we talk about the interference to the transmission of innate forces. As I see it, the traditional obstetric delivery is a perfect example of one type of interference to the mother’s innate abilities to have a natural childbirth. The interference begins with the forced unnatural position of the mother on her back to deliver her child. This leads to further interference of the doctor’s hands now dependent upon using the child’s head as a source of leverage to deliver the shoulders and the rest of the body.
Current acceptable birthing positions, which have a rich history, are widely used by the majority of birthing mothers today. If even briefly investigated, the positions commonly utilized in the birthing process are suspect in terms of effectiveness and safety for mother and child. Dr. Mendelsohn states:
Considering the radical nature of the change from the birthing stool to the supine position, you would assume that it evolved from cautious scientific research. Incredibly, it didn’t. The practice of laying birthing mothers flat on their backs was initiated to satisfy a kinky erotic aberration of France’s Louis XIV.
King Louis, it seems, got his kicks by peering from behind a curtain while his mistresses, of whom there were many, gave birth. He was frustrated because his vision was obstructed when the women were seated on birthing stools. In an inspired moment he used his royal clout to persuade a male midwife to improve his view. A woman was placed on a high, flat table, with her knees up, and King Louis was immensely pleased with the results. [Mendelsohn, 1982, 152-153]
The natural physiological instinct of a woman is to labor and birth in a position where gravity allows for the easiest possible birth. It is not by accident that the birthing mother has an innate desire to position herself in a way that is most advantageous for both of the parties involved. A child in-utero has assumed the head-down position months prior to delivery. During labor this position allows the head to put pressure upon the cervix, stimulating the natural production of prostaglandins and the resultant opening of the cervix. A chain reaction ensues whereby ocytocin is released resulting in normal contractions of the uterus, which in turn pushes the baby down and out of the birth canal. In addition to the head-down position of the infant and the resultant contributions to the birthing process, science has performed studies to determine what the most advantageous position is for delivery.
Way back in 1933 Mengert and Murphy, in an extensive experimental study, recorded intra-abdominal pressure at the height of maximum straining effort during labor. Their research involved more then 1000 observations of women placed in seven postures. They found that the greatest pressure was exerted in the sitting position. … In 1937, another researcher presented x-rays and measurements that indicated that squatting alters the pelvic shape in a way that makes it advantageous for delivery. [Mendelsohn, 1982, 153]
In a letter to the editor of Birth, Dr. Gastaldo sighted references to support this position of a proper birth position:
Practitioners should realize the radiographic evidence that squatting opens the pelvis and actually demonstrates that supine and semirecumbent labor positions tend to close the pelvis, denying the mother and fetus up to 30 percent of pelvic outlet area. [Gastaldo, 1992, 230]
In all of this I ask, what about the child who has to endure possibly the most dangerous journey of his life? How has his life been altered? What has he sacrificed without even knowing it? All because of a societal trend to deliver babies with force.
The topic of birth injuries is not entirely rare. In fact, this problem has become extremely common. In performing a search of current medical articles on this topic, I was faced with hundreds of recent cases of children who were injured during the delivery process. And, if that was not astonishing enough, the majority of injuries involved the nerve systems of these children. I think that Drs. Faix and Donn hit the nail on the head, when they addressed this problem. They said:
Many more injuries do not result in infant death but may still significantly affect the neurodevelopmental outcome. [Faix & Donn, 1983, 487]
…it is still true that the most dangerous journey some people will ever undertake is that from the womb to the outside world. [Faix & Donn, 1983, 504]
The number of articles available to me on the topic of birth trauma resulting in nerve damage is so great that I could not possibly touch on all of them here in this paper. I will, however, use a few references to make my point that even in uncomplicated births, interference to the life expression in our children occurs. To what degree? We can only speculate. Abraham Towbin, M.D. researched this topic extensively. He states:
Most investigators in the past, in pursuing the problem of birth injury of the central nervous system, have been preoccupied with pathological changes in the forebrain. It is evident, however, that for the newborn, elementary biological activity is not dependent on the presence and function of the cerebrum. Survival of the newborn is governed mainly by the integrity and function of the vital centers in the brain stem. Yet, paradoxically, the importance of injury at birth to the brain stem and spinal cord are matters which have generally escaped lasting attention. Regrettably, in many institutions in which autopsies of newborns are performed, examination of the spinal structures is not carried out routinely; spinal injuries are thus often overlooked. [Towbin, 1969]
Injury during the birth process affects the vital centers of the brain stem, spinal cord, and nerve roots resulting in interference to the transmission of innate forces. Towbin summarizes:
Spinal cord and brain stem injuries occur often during the process of birth, but frequently escape diagnosis…. On the basis of the present investigation and past clinical and pathological studies it is believed that brain stem and spinal injuries at birth are essentially attributable to excessive longitudinal traction, especially when the force is combined with flexion and torsion of the spinal axis during delivery…. The occurrence of spinal cord or brain stem injury in 10 to 33 percent of neonatal deaths autopsied, reported in the past and reflected in the present study, indicates the significance of this form of birth trauma. [Towbin, 1969]
According to Dr. Byers, the recognized causative factors to injury during the birth process are traction, rotational stresses, and hyperextension of the fetal head. Recognition of these factors is the basis for prevention of this terrible accident. [Byers, 1975]
Duncan (1874) studied the effect of obstetrical traction through various experiments that tested the tensile strength of the spinal column in the fresh term fetus. In some instances he found that traction of 90 pounds caused the vertebral column to give way. The disseverance of the vertebrae invariably took place in the cervical region. Decapitation occurred when 120 pounds of force was applied. Duncan commented ‘This is probably far from being what most obstetricians would regard as a great force.’ [Towbin, 1969]
Imagine an 8-pound baby enduring 90 to 120 pounds of tractional force to its head and spine. That is a factor of twelve and a half times its body weight. What would happen if a 180-pound man had 12.5 times his body weight applied to his head and neck? That would be 2250 pounds of tractional force. I believe he would be killed instantly. And, as Duncan stated above, this is “far from being what most obstetricians would regard as a great force.”
In a more recent study that attempted to simulate the applied loads that the clinicians placed on the newborn’s spine, it was concluded that most were unaware of the amount of force being delivered to this fragile person.
Initial tests with the simulator demonstrate that perceptions of force vary considerably among clinicians, and that forces exerted can sometimes be sufficient to cause clavicle fracture. [Allen, 1995]
David Yashon, M.D. also conducted extensive research on this topic. He determined the maximum distance that a spine and nerve system can be stretched before failure:
In autopsy specimens, he showed, that the vertebral column could be stretched 2 inches and the spinal cord considerably less. The disparity between the pliable bony ligamentous column and the less elastic spinal cord and meninges may explain the occurrence of severe cord stretch paralysis without evidence of bone injury. Clinical symptoms vary according to the level of injury. The obstetrician may report a loud snap from within the birth canal during extraction. [Yashon, 1986, 349]
The devastating effects of this inhumane practice of twisting and pulling on an infant’s head during delivery results in long lasting impairment, a shortened life span, and even death. Towbin places injured infants into three main groups.
In viewing the direct effects of neonatal spinal cord and brain stem injury, three main clinical groups emerge. In the first group, death of the neonate occurs during the course of labor or soon after birth. The second group is comprised of newborn infants with cord or brain stem damage who survive for a period of days. The third group comprises infants who survive for long periods, often for years. [Towbin, 1969]
I find it interesting how he refers to the three groups in terms of the length of time they will survive. I would speculate that the quality of life for any one of these groups is not favorable. I would consider interference to innate’s expression at this level severe.
Those that do not die are left to live a life from the start with a dim expression of what should be a perfect life expression. How common are subluxations in our children? Very! Dr. Gutmann explores this very question.
…a syndrome that has so far received little attention, which is caused and perpetuated in infants and small children by blocked nerve impulses at the atlas. The clinical picture ranges from central motor nerve impairment and development… to lowered resistance to infections, especially to ear-, nose- and throat infections.
Lewit found among primarily youthful patients with chronic tonsillitis that 92 percent had an atlanto-occipital joint blockage, primarily between the occiput and the atlas. [Gutmann, 1987]
Those that survive the most dangerous journey are left to live a life with interference to the most important system in the body; that is, the system that transmits the messages of life. Interference to the nerve system has been shown to cause a list of diseases and conditions. For years chiropractors have known the effect of subluxation on human potential. Let’s take a look at what the medical literature says on this very topic.
Dysponesis: It is basically a reversible physiopathologic state composed of errors in energy expenditure that interfere with nervous system function and thus the control of organ function. [Whatmore & Kohli, 1968]
Results from a study performed by Xu and Pekkanen on the occurrence of childhood asthma indicated that obstetric complications were associated with a higher risk of asthma among children. These children were administered special procedures at birth, i.e., cesarean section, vacuum extraction, and other procedures, including the use of forceps, manual auxiliary, and breech extraction. [Journal of Asthma, 2000, 589]
It is not surprising to me that an injury at birth or soon thereafter, if left uncorrected, can result in poor health in the future. As a chiropractor, I am fortunate to witness every day the restoration and preservation of health in both children and adults. Correction of the vertebral subluxation is vital to allowing the true expression of one’s innate potential.
One study examined the effects of chiropractic adjustments in children. The study participants were 604 children who had a variety of symptoms such as infantile colic, gastrointestinal disturbances, otitis media, auditory disturbances, asthma, bronchitis, allergies, dermatomal disturbances, enuresis (bed wetting), headache, migraine, spinal and peripheral joint problems, motor-neurological disorders and other symptomatologies. Relief of symptoms was shown to occur in as few as 3-4 adjustments. [Gottlieb, 1993]
And Dr. Gutmann had this to say after evaluating and adjusting over 1000 children with problems ranging from central motor impairment to infection of the ears, nose, and throat.
If the indications are correctly observed, chiropractic can often bring about amazingly successful results, because the therapy is a causal one. [Gutmann, 1987]
Now, I realize that these studies only focus on the illness or condition that improved. However, I like to look at these cases and ask the question: Does removal of the vertebral subluxation after an illness has been acquired result in a better life? What would our lives be like if we removed the vertebral subluxation before any condition was apparent? Or even better, what would our lives be like if we had regular spinal checks to ensure that our communication pathways from our innate to our bodies were clear of interference?
Drs. van Breda and van Breda asked this very question. They surveyed two hundred pediatricians and two hundred chiropractors to determine the differences in the health of their prospective children. The results speak for themselves.
The chiropractic children showed a 69% otitis media free response, while the ‘medical’ children only had a 20% otitis media free response. Pediatricians were more likely to feel that every child would have been on a course of antibiotics at least once, and some suggested that almost 100% of children suffer from otitis media, whereas many chiropractors reported that their children had never been on antibiotics… The results of the study confirm the benefits of the chiropractic model of health care on the health status of children. [van Breda & van Breda, 1989, 101]
The Fate of Humanity
Improving our individual health would go a long way to improving our world. I support the view that healthy people make healthy decisions and sick people make sick decisions [author unknown]. The more healthy people there are in the world, the better off we all are. So where do we stand in the world in terms of quality of health?
The U.S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance, the report finds. [World Health Organization, 2000]
We spend the most money but are way down the list in terms of health care performance. It is clear that we are not tapping into our current potential of health and wellness. What is our potential? How long could we live? Is it possible to become healthier as we get older?
The current life expectancy throughout the world is about 70 years of age [WHO, 2000]. However, I bring your attention to an article that was written about people much like us that live to be older than 100 years of age. The most wonderful thing about this is that they live to be centurions with good health, wellness, and vitality. It seems almost unimaginable to read a story about a gentleman that is 104 years of age walking a half mile down a steep hill to take his daily bath in the river, regardless of the weather or season. Or, to hear the response to the question: “At what age did you consider yourself young?” A 117-year old man responded, “Youth normally extends up to the age of 80. I was still young then.” [Leaf, 1973]
The point here is that we are barely tapping into half of our life’s potential. Who’s to say that we could not do the same by living a life free of interference and, thus, allowing our innate expression to shine on for an additional 70 years? The one common element that I found among all of the people that lived over 100 years was that their level of stress was far less then ours. Stress becomes a major interference to our transmission of innate forces making us more susceptible to the destructive universal forces. Principle 23 states that the function of innate intelligence is to adapt universal forces and matter for use in the body, so that all parts of the body will have co-ordinate action for mutual benefit. [Stephenson, 1927] Stress limits our ability to adapt to our surroundings; therefore, we succumb to it. In time, we weaken, sicken, and then die.
I think that B.J. said it best in one of my favorites, which is entitled An After Thought.
A slip on a snowy sidewalk, in winter, is a small thing. It happens to millions.
A fall from a ladder, in the summer, is a small thing. It also happens to millions.
The slip or fall produces a subluxation. The subluxation is a small thing.
The subluxation produces pressure on a nerve. That pressure is a small thing.
The pressure cuts off the flow of mental impulses. That decreased flowing is a small thing.
That decreased flowing produces a dis-eased body and brain. THAT is a BIG thing to THAT man.
Multiply THAT sick man by a thousand, and you control the physical and mental welfare of a city.
Multiply THAT sick man by a million, and you shape the physical and mental destiny of a state.
Multiply THAT man by one hundred thirty million, and you forecast and can prophesy the physical and mental status of a nation.
So the slip or fall, the subluxation, pressure, flow of mental impulses, and dis-ease are BIG enough to control the thoughts and actions of a nation.
Now comes a man. And one man is a small thing.
This man gives and adjustment. The adjustment is a small thing.
The adjustment replaces the subluxation. That is a small thing.
The adjusted subluxation releases pressure upon nerves. That is a small thing.
The released pressure restores health to A man. That is a BIG thing to THAT man.
Multiply that well man by a thousand, and you step up the physical and mental welfare of a city.
Multiply that well man by a million, and you increase the efficiency of a state.
Multiply that well man by one hundred thirty million, and you have produced a healthy, wealthy, and better race for posterity.
So the adjustment of the subluxation, to release pressure upon nerves, to restore mental impulse flow, to restore health, IS BIG enough to rebuild the thoughts and actions of the world.
THE IDEA that knows the cause, that can correct the cause of die-ease, IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST IDEAS KNOWN. Without it, nations fall; with it, nations rise.
THE IDEA is the BIGGEST I know of. [B.J. Palmer; Barge, 1996]
An afterthought? No, this is the BIG IDEA. Thank you, B.J., for that. I know that subluxations at birth have a big impact on our world. And, the adjustment to correct those subluxations has an even bigger impact. Without chiropractic adjustments, no hope exists for our children or for our world.
I revert back to my question posed at the end of the introduction. How does the Big Idea influence the fate of humanity? I answer with another question: Why chiropractic for children? Because our children are our future. The health of our future world depends upon freeing our children from interferences to the transmission of their innate forces. Creating a healthy world depends upon chiropractors placing their hands upon the spines of our children. The fate of humanity is in our hands.
I want to thank my wife Nancy McKillican for her support and devotion to chiropractic and for her vision. Without her I would not be the chiropractor I am today. Her love and spirit inspire me.
To my father Ken McKillican, DC, I say thanks for giving me the dream years ago to become a chiropractor.
To Joseph Flesia, DC, my mentor, I say thank you for giving me a vision and a vehicle in which to change the world. I thank you for all you have done for chiropractic. You are a true warrior. We will keep the dream alive.
To Anne Canty, PhD, a friend and a devout chiropractic supporter, I say thank you for all your help and suggestions to make this paper possible. Chiropractic’s future is in better hands with you on its side.
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*This thesis was originally published in Philosophical Contemplations Vol. 3