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Our Biotensegrous Selves

“It’s time for you to stand up on your own two feet,” says the old adage, referring to gaining stability by relying on our body’s interaction with gravity, especially at its inferior-most point, the feet … of course, the phrase also refers to gaining self-reliance. But do we really stand on our feet, as the adage suggests, or are each of the parts of our body interdependent (or self-reliant) in a biotensegrity matrix comprised of tensional and compressive forces, which then interacts with the Earth through gravity? If we really did stand up using the hard, architectural elements of our frames, our bones, then those with paralysis would be able to stand upright.

Megan McLoughlin

In his article The Architecture of Life, researcher Donald Ingber describes tensegrity as “a system that stabilizes itself mechanically because of the way in which tensional and compressive forces are distributed and balanced within the structure.3” Essentially, what holds a system together (and what stabilizes the system against gravity) is a complex system of integrated components which exert tensional and compressive forces equally upon it in an efficient and balanced way. Mechanical stability is derived not from balancing muscle tone and strengthening bones, but from the strategic distribution of mechanical stress throughout the system holistically, including but not limited to the above components. This concept can be applied on a macroscopic level to all the tissue types of the body or on a microscopic level to the individual cells and organelles they comprise.

So far, we’ve used the word tensegrity, or when it’s applied to the body, biotensegrity, but where does this word originate from? The word tensegrity, a combination of the words tension and integrity, was coined by Buckminster Fuller, an architect, engineer, and cosmologist. Fuller himself describes tensegrity as a system of self-tensioning structures comprised of rigid structures and cables that act under intrinsic stresses (like tension and compression) to function as an integrated whole4. From this definition, it’s easy to make the leap into biotensegrity, or the anatomical approach to this model, where osseous structures act as the rigid pieces and connective tissue structures including muscles and fascia act as the cables, or on a microscopic level, by the interactions of microfilaments and microtubules. The purpose of this system: to stabilize mechanical structures against stress, or we might say, subluxation.

According to Sue Brown, DC’s article Subluxation and Chaos Theory, any force introduced into a system is immediately transmitted into the entire structure due to the inherent pre-stress of the system by its tensegrity matrix. Dr. Brown describes how once the dissonant frequency of a subluxation is introduced into the body-system, the tissues distort themselves geometrically to store the energy associated with the subluxation, bringing order to the chaos1. These distortion patterns can be palpated physically by tracking the way the tension distributes itself among all structures in an intelligent and predictable way. Dr. Brown is best known for founding Bio-Geometric integration, a chiropractic analysis system that aids the chiropractor as they determine how the subluxation tracks through the entirety of the system, as expressed through the innate intelligence of the unique body expression.

According to Ingber, “changing cytoskeletal geometry and mechanics could affect biochemical reactions and even alter the genes that are activated and thus the proteins that are made.3” When combined with Dr. Brown’s hypotheses, a subluxation may be capable of altering genetic expression. And, so may the adjustment. The type of force applied to a cell determines the action that it takes. For instance, to increase the likelihood that a cell will divide, spread it flat. To activate its apoptosis gene, keep it round and prevent it from flattening out. Under the perfect balance of tension and compression, cells differentiate into the various tissue types we know them by (ex: capillaries cells form a hollow cavity, liver cells secrete hormones consistent with liver tissue). In other words, when excessive tensioning or compressing forces are removed, the cells are able to step into their symbiotic role and express their potential.

In her paper Subluxation and Human Evolution: A Philosophical Model of Subluxation, Dr. Brown describes subluxation in its simplest sense as a separation of self from Spirit, where the role of the chiropractor is to remove the nervous system interference that separates being from Being; to facilitate Innate as it utilizes separation to drive itself back to Unity while granting perspective to the individual through their Educated Intelligence2. It is the polarity between tension and compression and between disconnection and connection from Truth that facilitates a system as it moves from not knowing into knowing. In other words, the capability of consciousness to expand may not be possible in the absence of subluxation, and this concept is mirrored geometrically within each of our various tissues. Now go ahead and stand up on your own two feet, Soul Being, and weather the subluxations.


This article first appeared in the November 2019 issue of Lifelines, the Life West student magazine.

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