100 Year Lifestyle Chiropractor in New York, New York 10023


The Tones of Health


The Tones of Health

D.D. Palmer, the originator of chiropractic, described chiropractic as an art, science, and philosophy “founded on tone.” We’ve all heard of sympathetic fight-or-flight activity or “sympathicotonia,” which is a shift in the nervous system toward a heightened stress pattern. In the natural rhythms of life, sympathicotonia corresponds to the normal day-time rhythm of life, but it can become heightened or exacerbated due to acute or chronic stressors in life. There is also the night-time rhythm in Nature, where our nervous systems down-regulate into the familiar parasympathetic state which is called “vagotonia.” 


When applying the framework of tone to our concept of health and wellness, we often hear that chronic, sympathetic fight-or-flight activity can lead to a susceptibility for dis-ease. The chiropractor’s work with the nervous system in this case is about alleviating that heightened tension pattern in order to achieve balance, allowing the stress-state of the nervous system to release. The same applies in the opposite scenario. If an individual is in a chronic “vagotonic” state of parasympathetic activity, this can lead to a susceptibility for dis-ease, where the goal remains the same–to bring the nervous system forward into normal balance and normal tone, or “normotonia,” which is Nature’s harmonious and ideal rhythm.   

D.D. Palmer’s focus on subluxations, or vertebral misalignments, led to his idea that they caused changes in the nervous system’s tonal expression, either toward a sympathetic or parasympathetic state of function. This could then result in alterations to an organ’s cellular function in the body. If an individual presents with chronic sympathetic or parasympathetic activity in the nervous system, the important goal in chiropractic is to bring him or her forward into a state of normotonia and health.  

Changes, Not Interruptions

D.D. Palmer’s son, B.J. Palmer, also known as the “developer” of chiropractic, emphasized that vertebral subluxations could be interpreted as causing “interferences” to nerve communication, which would explain their altering effect on the organs of the body. However, D.D. Palmer stressed the importance of the earlier concept which emphasized that subluxations cause changes in tone, not necessarily “interruptions” to nerve-signals. 

D.D. Palmer’s unique emphasis on tone gains profound relevance when we recognize the brain’s intelligent role in creating sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity. The brain governs a shift toward sympathicotonia and vagotonia, as well as the return normotonia, due to “special biological programs” previously unknown in biology (until the discoveries presented in the work of German New Medicine). Though it wasn’t discovered during the lifetime of either D.D. or B.J Palmer, the brain has now been shown to incur particular emotional traumas called “biological conflict shocks” which imprint overtop specific brain relays in the form of spherical lesions, causing heightened sympathicotonia in the nervous system. In addition to this sympathetic shift, an organic cellular adaptation proceeds in the exact, corresponding organ. This is one of the reasons why it’s called a “special biological program.”  

The 3 T’s

If you imagine the acute stress of being suddenly chased by a tiger, then in addition to the well-known sympathetic fight-or-flight response that occurs, we now can observe unique brain formations (Hamer Herds) that cause an alteration in the corresponding organ’s cellular function. 

Chiropractors have long recognized how vertebral subluxations can be caused by thoughts, traumas, and toxins – the three “T’s” as they’re called in chiropractic philosophy. And chiropractors recognized how vertebral subluxations can alter the nervous system’s tone, which in turn affects organic cellular functioning in the body. With the discovery of these spherical brain imprints caused by unexpected, emotional traumas, we gain crucially important knowledge about the whole process that underlies the nervous system’s shift in tone and the predictable effects this has on a given organ. 

What chiropractors understood prior to these discoveries, is that our biology desires an intelligent goal when positioned into a state of chronic sympathetic activity – it desires a return to normal tone! What does this mean, exactly? Well, before the emphasis on the brain, especially the psyche’s conflicted experiences in life, the “return to normal tone” meant adjusting vertebral subluxations (along with general lifestyle considerations) that would help the individual advance toward greater health. But with these discoveries, we see another side to the work of achieving normal tone. 

Higher Levels of Intention

What we are beginning to realize is that there are higher levels of intention behind the nervous system’s shift to sympathicotonia, when the individual is faced with acute, emotional “biological conflicts,” or traumas that imprint in the brain. These experiences of conflict are really at the root of the meaningful shift to sympathicotonia. When we resolve our conflict trauma–when we adapt to and overcome the problem in life–the brain and organism naturally transitions into a necessary vagotonic state of recovery, which then leads to a re-balancing, and a return to normal tone, “normal function,” and health. 

While the goal in chiropractic is to achieve a normal physiological tone, we can understand that there are now two approaches–a physical and an emotional-spiritual approach–both of which can and should be harnessed together. The physical approach concerns the art of adjusting vertebral subluxations to allow a greater state of ease and adaptability in the expression of the nervous system. This can be vital in bringing the system forward into normotonia and health. 

The emotional or “spiritual” approach, on the other hand, is just beginning to grow, and it represents a new science of health. Here we understand the importance of the brain imprints caused by unique conflict-shocks or traumas in life. These “subluxations in the brain,” if you will, are equally important to address, for they greatly affect the body’s shift in tone as well as the organic cellular changes which proceed in the body. 

Understanding the Relevance

Just as D.D. Palmer had envisioned, this new information gives us a natural and vitalistic science for understanding the relevance of tonal shifts in the body and their organ-specific cellular changes, which we’ve historically labeled “organic disease” (diseases outside the context of injury or poisoning). 

There is a new science of health concerned with the brain and psyche. It unveils a new dimension of precision work, for any practitioner, with tremendous positive implications for helping an individual to regain normal tone. By helping others identify and resolve the unique, psyche-level conflict that impacted the brain, we can now offer a vitally important resource to help them achieve normal physiological tone and health–“from the above-down, and from the inside-out” – just as chiropractors have said, from the beginning. 


Reprinted with the permission of the author, John Ohm, and Pathways to Family Wellness magazine.

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