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Salutogenesis and the Future of Chiropractic

In the recent issue of the Life West magazine, we talk about the term Salutogenesis and how it applies to the chiropractic model of health.

In the past issue of the magazine, Life West took a stand on the term vertebral subluxation. We wrote about why it was an important phrase in today’s modern chiropractic language, giving us both historical context as well as a way to understand, very specifically, what is happening within the spine and nervous system.

In this issue, we are talking again about the chiropractic language. Our words define us and our way of practicing. A term like Salutogenesis, which literally means the “creation of health,” provides us with an opportunity to talk about the Vitalistic chiropractic model in a way that offers vivid clarity and guidance.

At Life West, it’s a priority to educate both our students and the public about the ways in which chiropractic care can create a healthier world. By focusing on the ways in which chiropractic can not only offer a creation of health, but an ongoing journey toward optimal health, we are most certainly designing the roadmap to “Create A Brighter Future For Humanity.”

—President Ron Oberstein, Life Chiropractic College West

By Jeanne Ohm, DC

Salutogenesis is a revolutionary way to frame the topic of health. It brings us to a positive definition of health as something to be worked with, attuned to, and even enhanced. This tangible relationship to health has been sorely missing in conventional medicine, whose purpose is not to improve health, but to remove disease. Indeed, the definition of health in modern culture largely rests on the notion that health is simply the absence of disease. This negative definition of health, and the fear of disease which it breeds in people, is what salutogenesis truly opposes.

It’s important to understand this point about fear; that it is not the focus on disease that constitutes the opposite of salutogenesis, but the fear of disease that accompanies that focus. It’s not salutogenic to deny oneself, or others, pathogenic interventions. Rather, salutogenesis is about our improved ability to make choices from a place of trust and confidence, where fear does not dictate our choices to us.

When we adopt a salutogenic framework in our lives, trust and confidence grows in our innate ability to be well, especially through the processes of disease. Salutogenesis, which literally means “the birth of health,” allows us to keep our eyes fixed on the core of our healthy expression underlying all processes of the body so we can make choices that serve and support that core essence of health.

Salutogenesis allows us to sit back and observe the living intelligence of life and health with utmost appreciation

Today, many people do not have an understanding of the vast intelligence that’s integrated with their living biology. To have such an understanding is to have a Sense of Coherence, a term extensively utilized in the salutogenic model. Sense of Coherence may mean many things to different people, but one thing which it does not mean is the mere “absence of disease.” Sense of Coherence is about the elevation of the conscious mind over the reactionary, fear-based impulses that are often provoked within us whenever out-of-the-ordinary experiences occur. Sense of Coherence is what allows us to take our confidence and incorporate it into all our life experiences, especially those that might otherwise bring us doubt and concern. Sense of Coherence cannot eliminate all conflicts and disease, but it vastly improves our ability to navigate them, and ultimately, integrate them.

The transformational power of salutogenesis is more than a change of perspective—it’s the functional improvements that occur when the mind and body hone in on what enhances their living potential. In exactly the opposite way of what occurs when we become fragmented in a state of fear and panic, salutogenesis aligns us to our living intelligence on all levels of our experience and for all occasions, so we can become coherent and powerful conductors of our own health, and exemplars for others as well.

In today’s culture, it is often perceived to be more profitable, “scientific” or “professional” to address people’s fears and offer the salvation of an external cure. The truth is, however, that this is largely a manufactured perception, concocted by a system that is more interested in extracting the life-force, money and dependency of people than it is in seeing their greatest state of health come to fruition. We know this because we see it in the hierarchy employed in the current model of health care, which pivots disease maintenance above everything else, including individual freedoms. This hierarchy needs to be flipped on its head because it is through individual freedom, courage and the salutogenic way of life that we will overcome disease in a sustainable, empowering way. More importantly, it is how we will banish the fears which impede and lock us into our dependency on external judgments and interventions.

Our choice to either inspire someone’s innate potential on all levels, or sell them a prescriptive cure based on their fear of disease, determines the kind of hierarchy that operates within our practice and our profession. For the person seeking care, it’s also a litmus test that we will either pass or fail as providers with respect to each person’s deeper search for something more than a “magic pill.” The divide between salutogenesis and pathogenesis in our profession is held by the day-to-day choices of each practitioner who’s caring for individuals. Will we treat the specific pathological symptom in theory and in practice? Or will we help align a person to salutogenesis—the origin of their autonomous health and well-being?

A helpful way for chiropractors to determine where they stand is to ask the following question: Was chiropractic intuited and brought into this world with the intent of locating the origin of disease, or was it brought into practice to help us locate and understand the fountain of health?

Granted, no one I know is exclusively salutogenic in their perceptions. In fact, the subluxation is a great example of how the chiropractic profession has walked the narrow path between salutogenesis and pathogenesis from its origins all the way to the present day. There’s no fault in exploring the cause of disease. However, my observations have shown me that laying claims to the cause of disease appears to be a dangerous game, not only because it is a coveted claim by other vested interests who hold power and influence, but more importantly, because it tends to corrupt the profession which holds it as the germ of its existence. Even here, I’m fascinated by the liberating potential of a salutogenic application, for salutogenesis counterbalances this haughty corruption in any profession.

Salutogenesis allows us to sit back and observe the living intelligence of life and health with utmost appreciation, so as to keep health above its own shadow of pathogenesis. It allows the principle of health to stand tall, a principle that otherwise dances quite low to the ground innervating, as it must, between this world and the invisible foundation from which it springs. Through our connection to salutogenesis, we keep ourselves aimed and coherent, even should the task of helping define disease be laid at our feet. As long as we hold to the positive definition of health, we will never lose ourselves. We will serve our profession through new horizons. We will continue to serve the individual. And we will be aligned to the greater potential belonging to our human species.




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