The Value of Chiropractic Care, and
Techniques from Chinese Medicine, in
Maintaining Healthy Levels of Energy

by Jonathan J. Dickau
©2002 - all rights reserved
The Body as Energy -

            The Human body is a marvelous organism, with a functional complexity that defies description. Nonetheless, many have tried to understand and describe the workings of the body, with varying levels of success. The many successes of conventional Science, with its ability to take things apart in order to see what they are made of, and thus to discover their working principles, have led us to believe that this line of study will eventually lead us to understand the body and other living organisms, in a definitive way. Taking things apart isn’t the only approach that works, but it seems to be the dominant paradigm in Western Medicine today. Though this tends to create a fragmented view of life, some people believe that it is the only realistic outlook. The character of descriptions we use to illustrate the way a body functions will influence the way we care for it, however, and for our bodies to function properly we must preserve and strengthen those factors which allow our parts to work together, and to function as a whole, co-operatively. This leads me to believe that we should be focusing more on what keeps us vibrant and alive, and seeking other possible descriptions of living beings, rather than viewing the body as a mere collection of parts. We should each be looking to discover and enhance our body’s innate ability, to manifest life and to orchestrate the activities of all those many parts.
            The most promising route to a more accurate view of the body, and the workings of life, also comes out of the world of Science, though not from the life-sciences. While it’s considered a minor factor by Western Medicine, this idea has been a major part of medical practice in the Orient for many years now, and it also serves as one of the cornerstones of Chiropractic care (at least in my opinion). This notion is the concept that our bodies are made of energy. With this insight, it follows that the proper care of the body requires that we maintain a healthy flow of energy to all its constituent parts. The hard Science of this idea (that substance and energy are the same) was clearly demonstrated by scientists at the time of Albert Einstein, and his most famous equation E = mc2 is the expression of this equivalency. Unfortunately, most doctors in America are reluctant to use this knowledge in their practices, having been taught that other factors are far more important to the understanding of the body, and proper medical care. Let me re-state this; Physical Science knows that all matter is comprised of energy, but Medical Science in our country tends to view this fact as inconsequential, as compared to our chemistry (and imbalances thereof), or to the specific details of our structure. Thus, when looking to solve people’s medical problems, many doctors tend to look for solutions by changing our chemical balance using other chemicals (drugs), by removing diseased organs, or by attempting to alleviate specific symptoms of discomfort.
            One thing that seems to get overlooked by conventional Medicine, as a result, is the subject of vitality, and I think that this idea is truly essential to a full understanding of health and well-being. The word vitality actually contains the word “vital,” which means both ‘essential,’ and ‘alive,’ and it bespeaks a sense of vibrancy, or more simply energy. The study of Chiropractic, and that of traditional Chinese Medicine, support the idea that having energy flowing through our bodies is crucially important to our health. If our bodies are seen as a blend of solid and energetic natures, as Quantum Mechanics would suggest, it’s not hard to tell which aspect is more alive, or embodies more of our vitality. In my opinion, the energetic aspect of our being is actually the only part of us which can be alive. Energy is motion or action, and energy must remain in motion, circulating at all times, in order to continue to exist. If we break the circuit of energy flowing to and from an electric lamp, the light will go out. Thus, it should come as no surprise that once enough of our circuitry has broken down, and the flow of energy ceases to reach our vital organs, our vitality will fade, action and motion will cease, and the body will die. When it is dead, the human body is indeed only a collection of parts, but until then we have another story.

Different Kinds of Nourishment -

            We are all familiar with the need to eat, when we are hungry. Food is something we can easily identify as nourishment, even when sometimes what we choose to eat is not what’s most nourishing, and though food is seldom consumed solely to satisfy our body’s actual need for the raw materials of our living tissue. We are usually far more concerned with satisfying our hunger, or stimulating our palate, than we are with giving the body what it needs. On the other hand, our bodies are quite amazing, and they can make do quite well with what we give them, for the most part. That is, our bodies are extremely adaptive and resilient, if we are starting off healthy, and they can deal with improper or inadequate nutrition for a long time. However, maintaining a state of optimum health requires that we actually give our body what it needs. We can’t be haphazard about how we feed ourselves, if we want to be prepared for the stresses of daily life, for diseases, or even for the normal wear-and-tear of healthy living. Furthermore, it’s not enough just to eat plenty of good healthful food, and assume that every part of your body is properly nourished. We now know that quite an assortment of vitamins and minerals is required for health, but there is yet more to the story. To make sure that every part of your body gets its proper nourishment requires that you fulfill a number of conditions simultaneously.
            First off, we need plenty of clean water and fresh air, as nourishment for a healthy body, and as vehicles to carry nutrients where they are needed. Our bodies can’t live long without water, but they can go far shorter with no air. Both proper breathing and an adequate supply of clean air are essential to life. In addition, we also need both exercise and rest, in good measure, for proper health to be maintained. Exercise is very important to vitality. We must take action and create motion, in order to preserve our ability to do these things, and we know that these functions are an expression of energy. Is there more to the story of energy in the body, however, than just getting regular exercise? Is there, in fact, a need for the body parts to be nourished by energy, and is there scientific evidence to support this? In my opinion, the need to have a healthy flow of energy, in our bodies, is rather obvious. I believe that the available evidence is already fairly compelling. Some of this has been understood for a long time, and the fact that certain ideas are not more broadly supported seems to be evidence of people’s reluctance to give up their cherished notions (or their support of a rigid philosophy), rather than confirmation that their views have the weight of scientific evidence bearing proof. If we do take the idea of our organs needing to be nourished by energy seriously, however, what does this mean?
            Just as we need to take in air which contains a suitable mixture of gases, circulate these elements through our bodies, and then exhale that which we do not require; our energy systems also need to be re-charged, to circulate and distribute those energies, and then to release those energies which we can’t use. In point of fact, everything we take in, including food, water, and air, are all sources of energy, or required factors for our bodies to generate energy and create vitality. The process we call living combines our various forms of sustenance, by setting these elements into motion, and allowing the interactions to create the potential for further action and motion. In other words, the fact that we are alive allows us to utilize air to oxidize our food, creating energy. Being alive also lets us utilize the water we drink to help digest our food, to carry the nutrients and oxygen to where they need to go, and to serve as a medium for the multitude of ionic interchanges which carry energy throughout the body. We have a constant exchange of polarities taking place all over our body, and we know that many of these interactions derive from chemical reactions, however they are all expressions of energy. On some level, we can view the body as a vast collection of batteries and fuel cells, supplying those structures which allow us to feel, to think, and to move, with the energy we need to be alive.
            In other words, that which allows us to be alive is the continual exchange of energy, and the transformation of one form of energy to another. These exchanges and transformations take place both among our own cells and organs, between the sub-cellular organelles like mitochondria, and with our environment. For us to leave energy out of the picture, when we consider what we require to have a healthy body, seems a bit audacious, to say the least. Therefore, I think that we need to consider the view that maintaining a healthy flow of energy is an essential part of caring for our bodies. This means we must make sure that every body part is properly nourished with the energies which sustain it. This view is one of the most basic assumptions of both Chiropractic care and traditional Chinese Medicine. Experiences of both practitioners, and those under their care, show that these techniques can bring renewed vitality to afflicted body parts, and increase the overall vibrancy of the body, which is often the surest sign of optimal health. When we speak of someone having vibrant health, or a healthy glow, our language celebrates the energetic aspect of really good physical condition, and it would seem that this is what everyone is actually looking for. We all want to be energized with vigor. We want the ability to go anywhere or do anything, to have an active life, and the freedom to enjoy it. Though our anatomy may grant us a specific reach, and no more, without enough energy we won’t even try to reach that far.

Healthy and Unhealthy Levels -

            Although I have focused on having an adequate flow, until now, it is important that we each understand there is more to it. Just as one can eat too much food and get indigestion, or drown from having too much water go down the wrong pipe, one can suffer ill effects from having too much energy, or the wrong type of energy, flowing to our body parts. One doesn’t have to look too far for examples, either; the regulatory mechanism of the heart is a perfect place to begin, since it illustrates many principles which apply elsewhere. A properly working heart has a rhythm that is fairly regular, but not completely so. Instead of the robotic timing of a clock, or a metronome, our hearts display an adaptive timing, which adjusts to changing conditions. This living rhythm arises out of the interplay between neural structures including the coronary and the cardiac plexus, ganglia reaching forward from the spine, and nerves emanating from the lower brain (including the vagus nerve). When there is an extraordinary need, nerve impulses are sent to excite the heart’s rhythm so it can pump faster. When the crisis is past, inhibitory impulses slow the heart back down. Both the simplicity and the complexity of this system are a marvel of natural engineering, but the proper operation of the heart’s regulatory system depends on there being a good connection between the associated parts of that mechanism.
            When the regulatory mechanism is working properly, the heart is made to work just hard enough to pump the blood where it is needed, without working to excess and creating high blood pressure. When the rhythmic flow of energy which bathes the heart and its associated nerves is either interrupted or over-stimulated, there are likely to be problems as a result. Obviously, if the right nerves in our hearts’ timing circuits were cut, the beat would stop. What is more common, however, is a situation where the heart runs away with itself, going into a state of ventricular fibrillation, where the nerves are firing constantly and the heart locks up. When this happens, a Doctor or an EMT may jolt the heart with an electric pulse, in an attempt to trigger a normal rhythm. In this rare situation, the medical profession knows that an abnormal energy flow is causing a problem, which could result in the death of the patient, and it uses a jolt of energy to reset the body’s timing circuits. What I am proposing, however, is that we should not think of energy’s role only in such extreme conditions. Nor should we feel that restoring a healthy condition must require a jolt, to set things right. On the other hand, maintaining a healthy flow of energy in all the body’s circuitry is something we should strive for, in my opinion, and something we do have the means to obtain.
            Although their outlook and their approaches for correcting problems are different, the study of Chiropractic and the study of traditional Chinese Medicine share many important beliefs, which have been tested and affirmed over many years of practice. Chiropractic care deals mainly with the spine, and with the neural structures which attach to, or emanate from, the spinal column. Though their primary technique is the adjustment of bones, through spinal manipulation, Chiropractors are acting to remove energy blockages (caused by pinched-off nerve fibers), or to relieve energy excesses (caused by over-stimulated nerves). Their belief, in this matter, is that once mis-alignments causing interference are removed, the body tends to become self-regulating again, overall vitality increases, and the individual’s health will generally improve. Chiropractors have found that subluxations of the spinal vertebrae, which interfere with normal functioning of the autonomic nervous system (the body’s regulating circuitry), can impact the health of the organs which are controlled by those nerves. Just as our heart’s rhythm is controlled by the interplay of neural impulses which serve to stimulate or calm the timing circuits of that organ, many other bodily functions are too. Chiropractic adjustments serve to keep the neural pathways open, and help to assure that vital energy gets to where it is needed and normal communication takes place between the nerves and organs, allowing proper regulation of function.
            Chinese Medicine pays far more attention to the daily flow of energy through channels on the surface of the body which are called the meridians, but its practitioners also work to remove blockages or to relieve excess build-ups of energy. The meridians are another component of our energy systems, considerably more subtle than the nervous system, but with a potentially important contribution to our health or illness. They are a kind of bridge between inside and out, according to practitioners, which allows us to influence internal function through external manipulation. So what exactly are the meridians, and how do they come to have the odd form they do? As I understand it, when a human embryo is forming, one cell will split into two cells, which migrate apart as cell division continues and find their way to becoming cells on our skin and cells in our internal organs, respectively. Those cells that were once a single cell, which then became two cells touching, went on to occupy different locations where one became a cell in our liver or heart (for example), and the other came to occupy a point on the skin. If we were to map out all of these locations, where our insides and outsides once touched, it is believed that this map would show the acupuncture points, and their associated meridians.
            Tenuous though this connection may be, practitioners of traditional Chinese Medicine have found that restoring a healthy flow of energy through these channels on the skin which link up to our organs, has a corresponding effect on those organs. Thus, practitioners of Acupuncture, Moxibustion, and various forms of Acupressure Massage such as Do-In and Shiatsu, use these techniques as a means of re-directing the flow of energy on the surface of the body, to create a healing effect on the inside. The belief of these practitioners is that by adjusting the energy flow on the surface of the body to more closely approximate that of an optimally healthy person, they might effect an improvement in the overall vibrancy of that person’s energy, and enhance the vitality of those internal organs which need to receive more energy, for proper health. Here again, the view is that energy is what brings vitality, or is in fact the vital-force itself, and that when the flow of nourishing energies is blocked, or an unhealthy excess of energies builds up, the body parts which depend on this flow will have impaired function.

Conclusions - What Does This Mean for Us?

            The fact that our bodies have an energy flow, and that we need to have a healthy flow to all our body parts, should be apparent by now. Beyond this, we are free to speculate somewhat, since there is no definitive word, and no clear consensus among those in health care related professions, about some of these matters. We do know that matter is comprised of energy, and that our bodies have the means to transport energy, in various forms, to where it is needed. We also know that there are structures in the body designed to create, store, and liberate energy, on various levels of scale. From the sub-atomic level, to the sub-cellular level, at the level our bodily organs, and on the level of the whole organism, the marvelous dance of energy with matter continues to unfold, so long as we are alive. Still, we find that the medical profession in America, and in many other parts of the civilized world, has downplayed the importance of maintaining the body’s ability to freely transport and distribute energy to where it is needed. The body’s ability to circulate energy is something that both Chiropractors and Acupuncturists believe is absolutely essential, for proper health to be cultivated and maintained.
            It is my personal opinion that their energy-maintaining practices offer us a powerful means of increasing our vibrancy, and that this works to our advantage as part of a first-line of defense against disease. It may not be as important as exercise, rest, or vitamins, for some individuals, but I believe we should consider proper energy flow part of what is required for human beings to maintain optimal health, nonetheless. The role of energy, or of the maintenance of a healthy flow of energy, and it’s relative importance as a health care measure, remains somewhat controversial. My personal experience would indicate that there is a meaningful benefit to be obtained, by giving proper attention to the body’s ability to serve as an energy conduit, and to keeping the body’s energy channels open, as I go about my day’s activities. My knowledge of Science leads me to believe that there is irrefutable evidence of the matter/energy equivalence. Matter is energy, locked up into form which can be converted back into energy, and which remains energy even while it is form, or substance. We could say that the particle-like and wave-like natures of matter and energy are shared by both. My experiences with Tai Ji practice have given me a clearer sense of this, and some confirmation of how meaningful the matter/energy duality is, at least for myself. I do not claim to have all the answers for everybody else, however.
            It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the relative effectiveness of various techniques, for raising the level of health or eliminating the causes of any malady. I am neither a medical doctor who is qualified to diagnose diseases, nor am I currently working in or studying to become a practitioner of one of the disciplines mentioned above (except Tai Ji, as I mentioned). I’m just another concerned citizen, who believes that we each need to be responsible for our own body, and become the stewards of our own health. I have found that maintaining a healthy flow of energy is an important part of keeping myself healthy, and it’s my intent to show that there is ample evidence, and a sufficient scientific rationale, to indicate that there is something real here, something valuable worth investigating. We have a reasonable basis for our belief in these ideas, and for the practices and practitioners involved with this work. I am not advising people to ignore the advice of their doctors, but rather to become more informed about how to care for themselves, and more involved in making their own health care decisions. One would not go to a dentist, for a problem with one’s feet, for example, but many people go to a medical doctor for problems which are clearly not addressed by conventional medicine.
            I firmly believe in the value of regular Chiropractic care, as I can readily feel the improved flow of energy it brings to my body. I have also had some luck with the Acupressure Self-Massage technique known as Do-In, and I’ve noticed that I feel more vigorously alive after activating my own meridians, or working to dispel the excess and clear blockages. I can only assume that skilled practitioners can do the same, and somewhat more. Also, just as one can have an itch one can’t reach far enough to scratch, there are times where no amount of working on oneself is going to set matters right. A Chiropractor can easily make adjustments to another person’s spine, which would be physically impossible for that individual to do for themselves, even if he or she was also a well-trained student of Chiropractic. The same can be said true, for the practitioners of traditional Chinese Medicine. Most will agree, also, that an important part of being of benefit to others is to be properly adjusted, oneself, and expressing the vital force that you hope to release in others. In that sense, these practitioners are both practicing what they preach, and trying to give the best of what they have to offer. Perhaps, by addressing the body’s need for a healthy flow of energy, they are poised to give us something medical doctors clearly do not. Those who believe that there must be something more, or perhaps something better than conventional medicine has to offer, should investigate the benefits of Chiropractic care and Chinese Medicine, before assuming that there are no real alternatives, or that Western Medicine has all the answers.

©2002 - Jonathan J. Dickau - all rights reserved

Single copies for reference or personal use are allowed,
but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Back to
The Body and
Healing It

Return to Jonathan's
Feature Articles

this page was posted on April 12, 2002