Straight Chiropractic/Mattress


I'm not sure if this is your area of expertise but I'm going to ask anyway. I'm a 36 year old man. I'm in pretty good fitness but I am a large framed guy. I've been experiencing some back tightness and neck tightness first thing after I wake up. I can't really remember how long it's been going on but it feels like its getting worse.

I'm thinking my mattress is about to bite the dust. It's a spring mattress that's starting to sag.

Two questions:

1. Should I look for something with more firmness or sort of a medium firmness? What's your opinion on that?
2. What's your opinion on memory foam mattresses? Would that be worth the money?

I thank you for your time and look forward to your response.

Dear Ryan,

Thank you for your question.  Yours is a question shared by many who are investigating chiropractic for the first time.  In order to answer it properly, Iíll 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. 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.

Your question deals with an important concern in all this.  Vertebral subluxations can be caused by a wide variety of factors, what we'll generally call stresses.  These stresses can be physical (such as sleeping posture, including surface firmness, pillow and mattress condition, etc., but also 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.  The reason 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.  In order to know if someone has a vertebral subluxation, it is necessary to have that personís 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.

Since vertebral subluxations are caused by so many different things, people choose to go and bring their children 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.

The key question to ask for your purposes, then, is do sleeping conditions, including the mattress variables, have the potential to cause a vertebral subluxation and is that the only possible cause?  Well, of course, it does and, no, it is not the only possible cause.  Anyone who tells you they can prescribe a certain type of mattress or pillow or determine the proper firmness or composition of either is guessing, at best, and ignoring the fact that each person is an individual.  In addition, there are many different forms of stress that one may encounter.  Ultimately, though, would someone be 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 choice or preference of mattress.

All this brings us to my shorter answer to your questions about which mattress to choose; the reality is, as alluded to in the paragraph above, itís based upon your unique, individual needs, which may vary throughout your lifetime.  There is no recipe or one-type-fits-all answer to this question.  As I said, anyone who is willing to advise you otherwise is taking a guess, nothing more.  

As I mentioned earlier, not all chiropractors adhere to this type of model and it is important that you be able to distinguish which ones do if you're going to seek this type of service.  If you are interested in finding out how to locate a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor in your area, please contact me at or this site again.  

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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