Straight Chiropractic/Back pain


I have been suffering with back pain for four years now and i'm not even 21 yet. I have been seeing a chiropractor for the last year and he has said he thinks that two vertebrae in the top of my back have grown bumpy not smooth and that is what is causing my problems. He manages to get me to having no pain what so ever but then randomly I can do it again, for example the Tuesday just gone I was in no pain what so ever went to get up off the sofa and I got half way and couldn't move I heard a grinding noise and was in complete agony. This has happened several times now just randomly do something and it goes, so really effecting my life as the simple things mess my back up.
I was just wondering if there was anything you could recommend to stop it keep messing up because as I say I'm not even 21 yet and on some of the strongest painkillers going so really effecting my life.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Many thanks

Dear Carli,

Thank you for your question.  Yours is similar to those I have heard from others who are investigating chiropractic. Unfortunately, though, much of your concerns may be based on some misconceptions.  In order to respond properly, I’ll first need to give you some background on the chiropractic profession.

There are two branches or schools of thought in chiropractic. Briefly, they are differentiated by whether they deal with the limited therapeutic approach for aches and pains (commonly termed "mixed" chiropractic because it represents a mixture of a chiropractor with a non-chiropractic matter) or a non-therapeutic approach to optimum body performance (termed "straight" chiropractic because there is no mixing of chiropractic with anything else). My expertise is in non-therapeutic straight chiropractic.

Therapeutic "mixed" chiropractic is the older approach based on a split from the founding principles of chiropractic about a century ago.

Non-therapeutic "straight" chiropractic is the more modern of the two. It deals with a particular, common situation called a vertebral subluxation. This is not the same as the findings mentioned in your question, but they may exist together. The spine is made of many bone segments which house and protect the spinal cord and the smaller spinal nerve branches that come off the spinal cord and exit between the bones. These nerve pathways carry information or messages between the brain and the cells of the body. These messages are essential for the life of the cells. Without brain messages, the cells immediately begin the process of dying; i.e., they can no longer function the way they should to maintain life.

Because the bones are moveable, they can misalign in such a way as to interfere with the messages and, ultimately, the ability of the person to function at their best or express their optimum potential. People with vertebral subluxations are not able to get all they can out of life.

Vertebral subluxations can be caused by a wide variety of factors, what we'll generally call stresses. These stresses can be physical (such as accidental trauma, sleeping posture and mattress condition, the birth process, sneezing, falling down, etc.), mental / emotional (in its many forms, probably the most familiar use of the word stress), or chemical (such as pollution, drugs, etc.), which are, unfortunately, regular parts of daily living for all age groups. In short, a vertebral subluxation can occur for a multitude of reasons.

Tragically, vertebral subluxations are rarely obvious to the individual they affect. They usually have no symptoms. You say in your message that you experience back pain. Unfortunately, when it comes to determining if there is a vertebral subluxation present, pain is not a valid or reliable measuring stick. You say in your message that you have been told or shown that you have “bumpy” vertebrae, for instance, and the chiropractor you’ve visited assumes that this explains why you have pain or other difficulties.  Even if that were true, that is a question outside the realm of non-therapeutic straight chiropractic and, unfortunately, when it comes to determining if there is a vertebral subluxation present, neither is this type of finding a valid or reliable criterion.  

The reason pain cannot be used to reveal the nerve interference of vertebral subluxation is that most of what goes on inside you happens without your awareness. As an example, try to "feel" your liver. What's it doing right now? You can't know, so you can't know if it's functioning at its best or something less. To complicate things, nerve pathways that carry messages of control (termed "motor" nerves) have no way of transmitting ache or pain messages, so your body function may be far from perfect and you'd not have any alerting signal whatsoever. The branching of the nerve pathways is complex and extensive, making it exceedingly difficult to predict or determine exactly how the person will be affected.  In order to know if someone has a vertebral subluxation, it is necessary to have that person’s spine checked by a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor using a method of "analysis." When a vertebral subluxation is detected this way, it is obviously important to correct it as soon as possible using a procedure known as “adjustment.”

Since vertebral subluxations are caused by so many different things, people choose to go to a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor on a regular basis to enjoy the most time free of the life-robbing effects of vertebral subluxation. There's a saying that straight chiropractic is not about your back, it's not about your pain, it's about your life. Each person has a unique potential in life. With vertebral subluxation, it's impossible to realize that potential.

Now, that you have more information about the body and vertebral subluxation, how do you make use of it? Well, first understand that this is not an explanation of why you have the problems you list or whether any of them relate to vertebral subluxation. Are there reasons for what you’re experiencing?  Even though they may be beyond our ability to identify, yes, there are; but it is not relevant to the matter of whether you will benefit from being free of vertebral subluxations.  Vertebral subluxation is, in and of itself, detrimental to your life. It is not valid or reliable to try to connect it to symptoms, such as the back pain you report, or any other organ or tissue conditions. A key question to ask for your purposes, then, would be, Is someone with pain or “bumpy” vertebrae better off with vertebral subluxation / nerve interference or free of subluxation / with the nerve channels open? It is easy to see that having all the available nerve messages getting through is better than only some of them getting through, regardless of the person's situation otherwise.  It’s not that you should see a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor FOR your back pain other symptoms – you should visit one in an effort to be free of vertebral subluxations, even WITH those complaints. Non-therapeutic straight chiropractic is not about diagnosing and/or treating this or any other medical condition. It is entirely separate in its goal.

As I mentioned earlier, not all chiropractors adhere to this and it is important that you be able to distinguish which ones do if you're going to seek this type of service. It seems likely that the chiropractor you visited was offering therapeutic mixed chiropractic. I say this because, most significantly, apparently during the visits they were addressing your pain, primarily, and other therapeutic findings. You need to understand very clearly that the practice objectives of therapeutic mixed chiropractic and non-therapeutic straight chiropractic are quite different, as described above. What information I give you must not be interpreted from the mixed viewpoint.

Non-therapeutic straight chiropractic is not about the treatment of pain at all. Attempts to connect vertebral subluxation to such complaints are not valid. The theories that are proposed to demonstrate the validity of spinal manipulation for ailment treatment certainly are topics of great debate and are clearly different from what would be proper non-therapeutic straight chiropractic procedures or principles. I will not comment, then, on the therapeutic goal of relieving your pain, changing “bumpy” vertebrae, or even whether it will be possible to do so.

Certainly, as I said earlier, it would be wise to have your spine checked for vertebral subluxations by a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor, even if you still elect to have therapeutic attention for your other concerns or wish to continue with a therapeutic mixing chiropractor to do so. Remember, the two objectives are not the same. I can not tell you whether this or any individual chiropractor is right for you but, hopefully, you now have enough information at hand to make that decision with greater confidence.

If you are interested in finding out how to locate a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor in your area, please contact me at this site again or at

Carli, I wish you the best in sorting out your choices in chiropractic. It has been my pleasure to provide you with some information.

James W. Healey, D.C.

Straight Chiropractic

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James W. Healey, D.C.


I can answer questions about what is known as Straight Chiropractic, a modern branch of chiropractic focusing on individual potential and optimum human performance, and Vertebral Subluxation, a very common condition of spinal bones which affects an individual`s ability to express their full potential in every aspect of human performance.


I have been in this field for over thirty years, in private practice and as a lecturer at seminars around the country. I have served on the faculty and administrations of two Straight Chiropractic Colleges and was the president of a federally-recognized Straight Chiropractic accrediting agency.

I have served as an officer and director of the Federation of Straight Chiropractors and Organizations (FSCO), an international organization, and am a member and director of the Garden State Chiropractic Society (GSCS) in New Jersey. I am a member of The Chiropractic Trust and the review board of the Journal of Straight Chiropractic.

I am a regular contributor to Straight To You, the Journal of the Garden State Chiropractic Society and was a columnist for Dynamic Chiropractic. I have also been published in The Chiropractic Journal and publications of the Federation of Straight Chiropractors and Organizations.

I am a 1981 graduate of Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic, attended University of Chicago and hold a Bachelor's degree from Gettysburg College.

Awards and Honors
I am a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was named Chiropractor of the Year in 1986, 1991, 1996 and 1998 by the Garden State Chiropractic Society and Regent of the Year in 1985 by Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic.

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