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 The Illness-Wellness Continuum

The Illness-Wellness Continuum

Monday, June 6, 2022

Since the first chiropractic adjustment was performed way back in 1895, the chiropractic approach has been all about caring for the person rather than just treating the symptoms. A recognition that healing comes from within. This is consistent with the Above Down Inside Out concept that was coined by the developer of chiropractic, B.J. Palmer, early last century. 

When you cut your finger, it is not the Band-Aid that does the healing. Rather, it is your innate healing powers that organises platelets to form a clot, white blood cells to reduce infection and inflammatory mediators to start the process of tissue repair. You don’t think about this at a conscious level… it happens automatically. Just as you don’t have to tell your heart to how fast it must beat or your pancreas how much insulin to produce after eating a meal.  

To have complete balance and be truly healthy, we need to be connected to our environment and those around us (Above Down) and connected within ourselves (Inside Out). 

Allopathic medicine is an ‘Outside In’ approach. A painkiller to reduce pain, an anti-inflammatory to reduce inflammation or an antipyretic to reduce fever, rather than looking at health coming from within… ‘Inside Out’. 

It’s not that one approach is right or wrong. Both are important depending on where we are at with our health. If you have a near death experience or significant illness, medicine can literally save your life, but it is only when you are well from within that you can be truly healthy. 

In 1972, John Travis MD postulated the Illness-Wellness Continuum. This explained very succinctly the difference between the Illness and Wellness Paradigm (see below). At the far left of the scale we have Premature Death and on the far right we have High Level Wellness. While we may all aspire to be at the High-Level Wellness end of the scale, in truth we spend most of our life somewhere in between. 

Everything to the left of the neutral point involves varying degrees of disability, symptoms and signs. This red zone is the treatment area where most healthcare (or more accurately, disease care) takes place. 

To the right of the neutral point is increasing health that comes with health education, awareness and personal growth. This is very much about lifestyle. Being proactive when it comes to healthy eating, performing regular exercise, meditating to keep you relaxed and spiritually connected. 

Chiropractic care sits on both sides of the neutral point. When a patient sees a chiropractor for acute sciatica or chronic migraines, they would be in the red zone. However, when a client attends for a wellness check-up to maintain spinal and body balance, they are operating the blue/indigo zone. 

The reduction of symptoms is always an important early goal of chiropractic care for a symptomatic patient. However, ultimately, we hope to encourage and even inspire our clients to adopt a Wellness approach to healthy living.  

Used with permission, from ‘Wellness Workbook’, 3rd edition, C 2004 by John W. Travis, MD, and Regina Sara Ryan, Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA. www.thewellspring.com