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CAPA 2001-02-Spring

A Reply

Pages: 23-24
Year: 2003
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – The Journal of the Ida Rolf Institute – Spring 2001 – Vol 29 – Nº 02

Volume: 29

Both of these articles address an aspect of the chiropractic model, what has been called the “foot-on-thehose” theory or the “hard-bone-on-a-soft-nerve” theory. Both do so with some justification, and both with some misunderstanding. Ida takes a structural slant and Marcela Ullman a neurologic one, though both use the model as a starting place.

Ida criticizes the chiropractic model for pinning everything on osseous position, which chiropractors from time to time have been known to do. She writes, “The idea of the chiropractors, and before them some of the osteopaths, is that the basic problem of a body is in the bony structure.” Her statement misrepresents both D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, and Andrew Still, father of osteopathy. DD saw himself as freeing Life Force, or the “Innate Intelligence” of the body by “racking the bones.” D.D didn’t seem to make any postural claims as to how the bones got that way – just that releasing Innate Intelligence is a good thing.

Over the course of time, the overall thrust, so to speak, of chiropractic became centered on “The Subluxation” because this was a concept which the profession had taken as their own and which chiropractors were presumably uniquely equipped to fix. The subluxation concept has a special position in being described in medical terminology while in some sense implying its historical roots of freeing the Life Force, though now the Life Force is seen in terms of “neural impulses.” In due course, chiropractors came to focus more on the subluxation as misaligned bones than on the stuff that subluxations were inhibiting.

It could be argued that Ida leans too far to the soft tissue side of the balance. Balance in the nervous system is required for balance in the soft tissue network, and balance in the nervous system demands a freely functioning skeleton, not in the foot-on-the-hose sense, but in the sense that the motor side of the nervous system depends for its functioning on a steady stream of sensory input. Far and away the largest source of sensory input comes from spindle cells in the small muscles of the joints of the spine. So everything really is dependent on everything else.

In her article, Ms. Ullman also takes on the foot-on-the-hose aspect of chiropractic theory, as she writes, “The idea that pain in the motor apparatus is predominantly a consequence of pinched nerves and could be ultimately freed by removing the bony or muscular obstructions, is now considered as old-fashioned and no longer valid.” The article appears to be written for the popular press and, while generally accurate, I found it a little misleading.

A quick reading suggests that removing bony or muscular obstructions would not be helpful in relieving pain. What is “no longer valid” is the notion that most neurological signs are caused by “pinched nerves.” Even though it has been known for some time that a pinched nerve produces no sensation, the notion of pinched nerves has a life of its own in popular thinking (I see about one a month). It is not that biomechanical causes have ceased to be causes. But the nervous system behaves in ways that are much more complex than once believed. Nerves are not like telephone wires.

Most musculoskeletal pain is chemically mediated by the products of cellular breakdown and the subsequent inflammatory response. So even when initiated by biomechanical difficulties, it is the arachadonic acids, the bradykinins, the substance P, or probably a host more that have been discovered in the few years since I studied it, that actually fire the receptors that leads to a pain response in the cortex. So disc problems, facet impingement etc., are still the culprits, but the pain is mediated by the nervous system which has rules of its own.

The second part of the article is about the discovery that mediation by higher centers plays a large role in the perception of pain and that those centers can be affected by manipulation and other stimuli. Nice to have that known.

Pain can be increased by sympathetic nervous system arousal, for instance. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released into the blood by sympathetic stimulation, potentiate the firing rates of pain receptors. So things hurt more when you’re under stress.

Pain can also be decreased by cortical inhibition. This is the point that the author makes about the effects of manipulation. Manipulation which has the effect of firing the stretch receptors in muscle tissue directly affects the firing rate of the cerebral cortex. Most likely Rolfing is included in this, though I don’t think it’s been researched. As the firing rate of the higher centers is increased, their ability to inhibit painful input is enhanced.

The corollary to this is also interesting. The lower part of the body has a much smaller representation in the cortex than the upper part, and especially the hands and face. So pain signals from back and legs have a much lower chance of being inhibited. Consequently, we see proportionally more back and leg pain than upper body pain. It may also explain why Rolfing is able to help many of the lower back cases whose MRI reports indicate we shouldn’t be able to do anything about them.[:de]Both of these articles address an aspect of the chiropractic model, what has been called the “foot-on-thehose” theory or the “hard-bone-on-a-soft-nerve” theory. Both do so with some justification, and both with some misunderstanding. Ida takes a structural slant and Marcela Ullman a neurologic one, though both use the model as a starting place.

Ida criticizes the chiropractic model for pinning everything on osseous position, which chiropractors from time to time have been known to do. She writes, “The idea of the chiropractors, and before them some of the osteopaths, is that the basic problem of a body is in the bony structure.” Her statement misrepresents both D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, and Andrew Still, father of osteopathy. DD saw himself as freeing Life Force, or the “Innate Intelligence” of the body by “racking the bones.” D.D didn’t seem to make any postural claims as to how the bones got that way – just that releasing Innate Intelligence is a good thing.

Over the course of time, the overall thrust, so to speak, of chiropractic became centered on “The Subluxation” because this was a concept which the profession had taken as their own and which chiropractors were presumably uniquely equipped to fix. The subluxation concept has a special position in being described in medical terminology while in some sense implying its historical roots of freeing the Life Force, though now the Life Force is seen in terms of “neural impulses.” In due course, chiropractors came to focus more on the subluxation as misaligned bones than on the stuff that subluxations were inhibiting.

It could be argued that Ida leans too far to the soft tissue side of the balance. Balance in the nervous system is required for balance in the soft tissue network, and balance in the nervous system demands a freely functioning skeleton, not in the foot-on-the-hose sense, but in the sense that the motor side of the nervous system depends for its functioning on a steady stream of sensory input. Far and away the largest source of sensory input comes from spindle cells in the small muscles of the joints of the spine. So everything really is dependent on everything else.

In her article, Ms. Ullman also takes on the foot-on-the-hose aspect of chiropractic theory, as she writes, “The idea that pain in the motor apparatus is predominantly a consequence of pinched nerves and could be ultimately freed by removing the bony or muscular obstructions, is now considered as old-fashioned and no longer valid.” The article appears to be written for the popular press and, while generally accurate, I found it a little misleading.

A quick reading suggests that removing bony or muscular obstructions would not be helpful in relieving pain. What is “no longer valid” is the notion that most neurological signs are caused by “pinched nerves.” Even though it has been known for some time that a pinched nerve produces no sensation, the notion of pinched nerves has a life of its own in popular thinking (I see about one a month). It is not that biomechanical causes have ceased to be causes. But the nervous system behaves in ways that are much more complex than once believed. Nerves are not like telephone wires.

Most musculoskeletal pain is chemically mediated by the products of cellular breakdown and the subsequent inflammatory response. So even when initiated by biomechanical difficulties, it is the arachadonic acids, the bradykinins, the substance P, or probably a host more that have been discovered in the few years since I studied it, that actually fire the receptors that leads to a pain response in the cortex. So disc problems, facet impingement etc., are still the culprits, but the pain is mediated by the nervous system which has rules of its own.

The second part of the article is about the discovery that mediation by higher centers plays a large role in the perception of pain and that those centers can be affected by manipulation and other stimuli. Nice to have that known.

Pain can be increased by sympathetic nervous system arousal, for instance. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released into the blood by sympathetic stimulation, potentiate the firing rates of pain receptors. So things hurt more when you’re under stress.

Pain can also be decreased by cortical inhibition. This is the point that the author makes about the effects of manipulation. Manipulation which has the effect of firing the stretch receptors in muscle tissue directly affects the firing rate of the cerebral cortex. Most likely Rolfing is included in this, though I don’t think it’s been researched. As the firing rate of the higher centers is increased, their ability to inhibit painful input is enhanced.

The corollary to this is also interesting. The lower part of the body has a much smaller representation in the cortex than the upper part, and especially the hands and face. So pain signals from back and legs have a much lower chance of being inhibited. Consequently, we see proportionally more back and leg pain than upper body pain. It may also explain why Rolfing is able to help many of the lower back cases whose MRI reports indicate we shouldn’t be able to do anything about them.[:fr]Both of these articles address an aspect of the chiropractic model, what has been called the “foot-on-thehose” theory or the “hard-bone-on-a-soft-nerve” theory. Both do so with some justification, and both with some misunderstanding. Ida takes a structural slant and Marcela Ullman a neurologic one, though both use the model as a starting place.

Ida criticizes the chiropractic model for pinning everything on osseous position, which chiropractors from time to time have been known to do. She writes, “The idea of the chiropractors, and before them some of the osteopaths, is that the basic problem of a body is in the bony structure.” Her statement misrepresents both D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, and Andrew Still, father of osteopathy. DD saw himself as freeing Life Force, or the “Innate Intelligence” of the body by “racking the bones.” D.D didn’t seem to make any postural claims as to how the bones got that way – just that releasing Innate Intelligence is a good thing.

Over the course of time, the overall thrust, so to speak, of chiropractic became centered on “The Subluxation” because this was a concept which the profession had taken as their own and which chiropractors were presumably uniquely equipped to fix. The subluxation concept has a special position in being described in medical terminology while in some sense implying its historical roots of freeing the Life Force, though now the Life Force is seen in terms of “neural impulses.” In due course, chiropractors came to focus more on the subluxation as misaligned bones than on the stuff that subluxations were inhibiting.

It could be argued that Ida leans too far to the soft tissue side of the balance. Balance in the nervous system is required for balance in the soft tissue network, and balance in the nervous system demands a freely functioning skeleton, not in the foot-on-the-hose sense, but in the sense that the motor side of the nervous system depends for its functioning on a steady stream of sensory input. Far and away the largest source of sensory input comes from spindle cells in the small muscles of the joints of the spine. So everything really is dependent on everything else.

In her article, Ms. Ullman also takes on the foot-on-the-hose aspect of chiropractic theory, as she writes, “The idea that pain in the motor apparatus is predominantly a consequence of pinched nerves and could be ultimately freed by removing the bony or muscular obstructions, is now considered as old-fashioned and no longer valid.” The article appears to be written for the popular press and, while generally accurate, I found it a little misleading.

A quick reading suggests that removing bony or muscular obstructions would not be helpful in relieving pain. What is “no longer valid” is the notion that most neurological signs are caused by “pinched nerves.” Even though it has been known for some time that a pinched nerve produces no sensation, the notion of pinched nerves has a life of its own in popular thinking (I see about one a month). It is not that biomechanical causes have ceased to be causes. But the nervous system behaves in ways that are much more complex than once believed. Nerves are not like telephone wires.

Most musculoskeletal pain is chemically mediated by the products of cellular breakdown and the subsequent inflammatory response. So even when initiated by biomechanical difficulties, it is the arachadonic acids, the bradykinins, the substance P, or probably a host more that have been discovered in the few years since I studied it, that actually fire the receptors that leads to a pain response in the cortex. So disc problems, facet impingement etc., are still the culprits, but the pain is mediated by the nervous system which has rules of its own.

The second part of the article is about the discovery that mediation by higher centers plays a large role in the perception of pain and that those centers can be affected by manipulation and other stimuli. Nice to have that known.

Pain can be increased by sympathetic nervous system arousal, for instance. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released into the blood by sympathetic stimulation, potentiate the firing rates of pain receptors. So things hurt more when you’re under stress.

Pain can also be decreased by cortical inhibition. This is the point that the author makes about the effects of manipulation. Manipulation which has the effect of firing the stretch receptors in muscle tissue directly affects the firing rate of the cerebral cortex. Most likely Rolfing is included in this, though I don’t think it’s been researched. As the firing rate of the higher centers is increased, their ability to inhibit painful input is enhanced.

The corollary to this is also interesting. The lower part of the body has a much smaller representation in the cortex than the upper part, and especially the hands and face. So pain signals from back and legs have a much lower chance of being inhibited. Consequently, we see proportionally more back and leg pain than upper body pain. It may also explain why Rolfing is able to help many of the lower back cases whose MRI reports indicate we shouldn’t be able to do anything about them.[:es]Both of these articles address an aspect of the chiropractic model, what has been called the “foot-on-thehose” theory or the “hard-bone-on-a-soft-nerve” theory. Both do so with some justification, and both with some misunderstanding. Ida takes a structural slant and Marcela Ullman a neurologic one, though both use the model as a starting place.

Ida criticizes the chiropractic model for pinning everything on osseous position, which chiropractors from time to time have been known to do. She writes, “The idea of the chiropractors, and before them some of the osteopaths, is that the basic problem of a body is in the bony structure.” Her statement misrepresents both D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, and Andrew Still, father of osteopathy. DD saw himself as freeing Life Force, or the “Innate Intelligence” of the body by “racking the bones.” D.D didn’t seem to make any postural claims as to how the bones got that way – just that releasing Innate Intelligence is a good thing.

Over the course of time, the overall thrust, so to speak, of chiropractic became centered on “The Subluxation” because this was a concept which the profession had taken as their own and which chiropractors were presumably uniquely equipped to fix. The subluxation concept has a special position in being described in medical terminology while in some sense implying its historical roots of freeing the Life Force, though now the Life Force is seen in terms of “neural impulses.” In due course, chiropractors came to focus more on the subluxation as misaligned bones than on the stuff that subluxations were inhibiting.

It could be argued that Ida leans too far to the soft tissue side of the balance. Balance in the nervous system is required for balance in the soft tissue network, and balance in the nervous system demands a freely functioning skeleton, not in the foot-on-the-hose sense, but in the sense that the motor side of the nervous system depends for its functioning on a steady stream of sensory input. Far and away the largest source of sensory input comes from spindle cells in the small muscles of the joints of the spine. So everything really is dependent on everything else.

In her article, Ms. Ullman also takes on the foot-on-the-hose aspect of chiropractic theory, as she writes, “The idea that pain in the motor apparatus is predominantly a consequence of pinched nerves and could be ultimately freed by removing the bony or muscular obstructions, is now considered as old-fashioned and no longer valid.” The article appears to be written for the popular press and, while generally accurate, I found it a little misleading.

A quick reading suggests that removing bony or muscular obstructions would not be helpful in relieving pain. What is “no longer valid” is the notion that most neurological signs are caused by “pinched nerves.” Even though it has been known for some time that a pinched nerve produces no sensation, the notion of pinched nerves has a life of its own in popular thinking (I see about one a month). It is not that biomechanical causes have ceased to be causes. But the nervous system behaves in ways that are much more complex than once believed. Nerves are not like telephone wires.

Most musculoskeletal pain is chemically mediated by the products of cellular breakdown and the subsequent inflammatory response. So even when initiated by biomechanical difficulties, it is the arachadonic acids, the bradykinins, the substance P, or probably a host more that have been discovered in the few years since I studied it, that actually fire the receptors that leads to a pain response in the cortex. So disc problems, facet impingement etc., are still the culprits, but the pain is mediated by the nervous system which has rules of its own.

The second part of the article is about the discovery that mediation by higher centers plays a large role in the perception of pain and that those centers can be affected by manipulation and other stimuli. Nice to have that known.

Pain can be increased by sympathetic nervous system arousal, for instance. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released into the blood by sympathetic stimulation, potentiate the firing rates of pain receptors. So things hurt more when you’re under stress.

Pain can also be decreased by cortical inhibition. This is the point that the author makes about the effects of manipulation. Manipulation which has the effect of firing the stretch receptors in muscle tissue directly affects the firing rate of the cerebral cortex. Most likely Rolfing is included in this, though I don’t think it’s been researched. As the firing rate of the higher centers is increased, their ability to inhibit painful input is enhanced.

The corollary to this is also interesting. The lower part of the body has a much smaller representation in the cortex than the upper part, and especially the hands and face. So pain signals from back and legs have a much lower chance of being inhibited. Consequently, we see proportionally more back and leg pain than upper body pain. It may also explain why Rolfing is able to help many of the lower back cases whose MRI reports indicate we shouldn’t be able to do anything about them.[:ja]Both of these articles address an aspect of the chiropractic model, what has been called the “foot-on-thehose” theory or the “hard-bone-on-a-soft-nerve” theory. Both do so with some justification, and both with some misunderstanding. Ida takes a structural slant and Marcela Ullman a neurologic one, though both use the model as a starting place.

Ida criticizes the chiropractic model for pinning everything on osseous position, which chiropractors from time to time have been known to do. She writes, “The idea of the chiropractors, and before them some of the osteopaths, is that the basic problem of a body is in the bony structure.” Her statement misrepresents both D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, and Andrew Still, father of osteopathy. DD saw himself as freeing Life Force, or the “Innate Intelligence” of the body by “racking the bones.” D.D didn’t seem to make any postural claims as to how the bones got that way – just that releasing Innate Intelligence is a good thing.

Over the course of time, the overall thrust, so to speak, of chiropractic became centered on “The Subluxation” because this was a concept which the profession had taken as their own and which chiropractors were presumably uniquely equipped to fix. The subluxation concept has a special position in being described in medical terminology while in some sense implying its historical roots of freeing the Life Force, though now the Life Force is seen in terms of “neural impulses.” In due course, chiropractors came to focus more on the subluxation as misaligned bones than on the stuff that subluxations were inhibiting.

It could be argued that Ida leans too far to the soft tissue side of the balance. Balance in the nervous system is required for balance in the soft tissue network, and balance in the nervous system demands a freely functioning skeleton, not in the foot-on-the-hose sense, but in the sense that the motor side of the nervous system depends for its functioning on a steady stream of sensory input. Far and away the largest source of sensory input comes from spindle cells in the small muscles of the joints of the spine. So everything really is dependent on everything else.

In her article, Ms. Ullman also takes on the foot-on-the-hose aspect of chiropractic theory, as she writes, “The idea that pain in the motor apparatus is predominantly a consequence of pinched nerves and could be ultimately freed by removing the bony or muscular obstructions, is now considered as old-fashioned and no longer valid.” The article appears to be written for the popular press and, while generally accurate, I found it a little misleading.

A quick reading suggests that removing bony or muscular obstructions would not be helpful in relieving pain. What is “no longer valid” is the notion that most neurological signs are caused by “pinched nerves.” Even though it has been known for some time that a pinched nerve produces no sensation, the notion of pinched nerves has a life of its own in popular thinking (I see about one a month). It is not that biomechanical causes have ceased to be causes. But the nervous system behaves in ways that are much more complex than once believed. Nerves are not like telephone wires.

Most musculoskeletal pain is chemically mediated by the products of cellular breakdown and the subsequent inflammatory response. So even when initiated by biomechanical difficulties, it is the arachadonic acids, the bradykinins, the substance P, or probably a host more that have been discovered in the few years since I studied it, that actually fire the receptors that leads to a pain response in the cortex. So disc problems, facet impingement etc., are still the culprits, but the pain is mediated by the nervous system which has rules of its own.

The second part of the article is about the discovery that mediation by higher centers plays a large role in the perception of pain and that those centers can be affected by manipulation and other stimuli. Nice to have that known.

Pain can be increased by sympathetic nervous system arousal, for instance. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released into the blood by sympathetic stimulation, potentiate the firing rates of pain receptors. So things hurt more when you’re under stress.

Pain can also be decreased by cortical inhibition. This is the point that the author makes about the effects of manipulation. Manipulation which has the effect of firing the stretch receptors in muscle tissue directly affects the firing rate of the cerebral cortex. Most likely Rolfing is included in this, though I don’t think it’s been researched. As the firing rate of the higher centers is increased, their ability to inhibit painful input is enhanced.

The corollary to this is also interesting. The lower part of the body has a much smaller representation in the cortex than the upper part, and especially the hands and face. So pain signals from back and legs have a much lower chance of being inhibited. Consequently, we see proportionally more back and leg pain than upper body pain. It may also explain why Rolfing is able to help many of the lower back cases whose MRI reports indicate we shouldn’t be able to do anything about them.[:it]Both of these articles address an aspect of the chiropractic model, what has been called the “foot-on-thehose” theory or the “hard-bone-on-a-soft-nerve” theory. Both do so with some justification, and both with some misunderstanding. Ida takes a structural slant and Marcela Ullman a neurologic one, though both use the model as a starting place.

Ida criticizes the chiropractic model for pinning everything on osseous position, which chiropractors from time to time have been known to do. She writes, “The idea of the chiropractors, and before them some of the osteopaths, is that the basic problem of a body is in the bony structure.” Her statement misrepresents both D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, and Andrew Still, father of osteopathy. DD saw himself as freeing Life Force, or the “Innate Intelligence” of the body by “racking the bones.” D.D didn’t seem to make any postural claims as to how the bones got that way – just that releasing Innate Intelligence is a good thing.

Over the course of time, the overall thrust, so to speak, of chiropractic became centered on “The Subluxation” because this was a concept which the profession had taken as their own and which chiropractors were presumably uniquely equipped to fix. The subluxation concept has a special position in being described in medical terminology while in some sense implying its historical roots of freeing the Life Force, though now the Life Force is seen in terms of “neural impulses.” In due course, chiropractors came to focus more on the subluxation as misaligned bones than on the stuff that subluxations were inhibiting.

It could be argued that Ida leans too far to the soft tissue side of the balance. Balance in the nervous system is required for balance in the soft tissue network, and balance in the nervous system demands a freely functioning skeleton, not in the foot-on-the-hose sense, but in the sense that the motor side of the nervous system depends for its functioning on a steady stream of sensory input. Far and away the largest source of sensory input comes from spindle cells in the small muscles of the joints of the spine. So everything really is dependent on everything else.

In her article, Ms. Ullman also takes on the foot-on-the-hose aspect of chiropractic theory, as she writes, “The idea that pain in the motor apparatus is predominantly a consequence of pinched nerves and could be ultimately freed by removing the bony or muscular obstructions, is now considered as old-fashioned and no longer valid.” The article appears to be written for the popular press and, while generally accurate, I found it a little misleading.

A quick reading suggests that removing bony or muscular obstructions would not be helpful in relieving pain. What is “no longer valid” is the notion that most neurological signs are caused by “pinched nerves.” Even though it has been known for some time that a pinched nerve produces no sensation, the notion of pinched nerves has a life of its own in popular thinking (I see about one a month). It is not that biomechanical causes have ceased to be causes. But the nervous system behaves in ways that are much more complex than once believed. Nerves are not like telephone wires.

Most musculoskeletal pain is chemically mediated by the products of cellular breakdown and the subsequent inflammatory response. So even when initiated by biomechanical difficulties, it is the arachadonic acids, the bradykinins, the substance P, or probably a host more that have been discovered in the few years since I studied it, that actually fire the receptors that leads to a pain response in the cortex. So disc problems, facet impingement etc., are still the culprits, but the pain is mediated by the nervous system which has rules of its own.

The second part of the article is about the discovery that mediation by higher centers plays a large role in the perception of pain and that those centers can be affected by manipulation and other stimuli. Nice to have that known.

Pain can be increased by sympathetic nervous system arousal, for instance. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released into the blood by sympathetic stimulation, potentiate the firing rates of pain receptors. So things hurt more when you’re under stress.

Pain can also be decreased by cortical inhibition. This is the point that the author makes about the effects of manipulation. Manipulation which has the effect of firing the stretch receptors in muscle tissue directly affects the firing rate of the cerebral cortex. Most likely Rolfing is included in this, though I don’t think it’s been researched. As the firing rate of the higher centers is increased, their ability to inhibit painful input is enhanced.

The corollary to this is also interesting. The lower part of the body has a much smaller representation in the cortex than the upper part, and especially the hands and face. So pain signals from back and legs have a much lower chance of being inhibited. Consequently, we see proportionally more back and leg pain than upper body pain. It may also explain why Rolfing is able to help many of the lower back cases whose MRI reports indicate we shouldn’t be able to do anything about them.[:pb]Both of these articles address an aspect of the chiropractic model, what has been called the “foot-on-thehose” theory or the “hard-bone-on-a-soft-nerve” theory. Both do so with some justification, and both with some misunderstanding. Ida takes a structural slant and Marcela Ullman a neurologic one, though both use the model as a starting place.

Ida criticizes the chiropractic model for pinning everything on osseous position, which chiropractors from time to time have been known to do. She writes, “The idea of the chiropractors, and before them some of the osteopaths, is that the basic problem of a body is in the bony structure.” Her statement misrepresents both D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic, and Andrew Still, father of osteopathy. DD saw himself as freeing Life Force, or the “Innate Intelligence” of the body by “racking the bones.” D.D didn’t seem to make any postural claims as to how the bones got that way – just that releasing Innate Intelligence is a good thing.

Over the course of time, the overall thrust, so to speak, of chiropractic became centered on “The Subluxation” because this was a concept which the profession had taken as their own and which chiropractors were presumably uniquely equipped to fix. The subluxation concept has a special position in being described in medical terminology while in some sense implying its historical roots of freeing the Life Force, though now the Life Force is seen in terms of “neural impulses.” In due course, chiropractors came to focus more on the subluxation as misaligned bones than on the stuff that subluxations were inhibiting.

It could be argued that Ida leans too far to the soft tissue side of the balance. Balance in the nervous system is required for balance in the soft tissue network, and balance in the nervous system demands a freely functioning skeleton, not in the foot-on-the-hose sense, but in the sense that the motor side of the nervous system depends for its functioning on a steady stream of sensory input. Far and away the largest source of sensory input comes from spindle cells in the small muscles of the joints of the spine. So everything really is dependent on everything else.

In her article, Ms. Ullman also takes on the foot-on-the-hose aspect of chiropractic theory, as she writes, “The idea that pain in the motor apparatus is predominantly a consequence of pinched nerves and could be ultimately freed by removing the bony or muscular obstructions, is now considered as old-fashioned and no longer valid.” The article appears to be written for the popular press and, while generally accurate, I found it a little misleading.

A quick reading suggests that removing bony or muscular obstructions would not be helpful in relieving pain. What is “no longer valid” is the notion that most neurological signs are caused by “pinched nerves.” Even though it has been known for some time that a pinched nerve produces no sensation, the notion of pinched nerves has a life of its own in popular thinking (I see about one a month). It is not that biomechanical causes have ceased to be causes. But the nervous system behaves in ways that are much more complex than once believed. Nerves are not like telephone wires.

Most musculoskeletal pain is chemically mediated by the products of cellular breakdown and the subsequent inflammatory response. So even when initiated by biomechanical difficulties, it is the arachadonic acids, the bradykinins, the substance P, or probably a host more that have been discovered in the few years since I studied it, that actually fire the receptors that leads to a pain response in the cortex. So disc problems, facet impingement etc., are still the culprits, but the pain is mediated by the nervous system which has rules of its own.

The second part of the article is about the discovery that mediation by higher centers plays a large role in the perception of pain and that those centers can be affected by manipulation and other stimuli. Nice to have that known.

Pain can be increased by sympathetic nervous system arousal, for instance. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released into the blood by sympathetic stimulation, potentiate the firing rates of pain receptors. So things hurt more when you’re under stress.

Pain can also be decreased by cortical inhibition. This is the point that the author makes about the effects of manipulation. Manipulation which has the effect of firing the stretch receptors in muscle tissue directly affects the firing rate of the cerebral cortex. Most likely Rolfing is included in this, though I don’t think it’s been researched. As the firing rate of the higher centers is increased, their ability to inhibit painful input is enhanced.

The corollary to this is also interesting. The lower part of the body has a much smaller representation in the cortex than the upper part, and especially the hands and face. So pain signals from back and legs have a much lower chance of being inhibited. Consequently, we see proportionally more back and leg pain than upper body pain. It may also explain why Rolfing is able to help many of the lower back cases whose MRI reports indicate we shouldn’t be able to do anything about them.

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