Navigating the Chiropractic Technique Jungle

[originally published in KCN, September 2001 / cartoon provided by]

Technique Jungle Dr.Thomas Lamar

Diversified, Gonstead, Cox Flexion Distraction, Activator, Thompson, Sacro Occipital Technique, NIMMO Receptor Tonus, Applied Kinesiology, Logan Basic, Cranial, Pierce-Stillwagon, Pettibon, Directional Non-Force, Toftness, Chiropractic Spinal Biophysics, Toggle Recoil, Neuro Emotional Technique — the list goes on, and on, and on, easily surpassing the 100 mark.  To the average chiropractic patient, or non-patient for that matter, these names probably seem like some sort of cryptic chiropractic jargon.  But to the chiropractor, these names parallel a walk down the tool aisle at Sears — these names represent chiropractic adjustive techniques.

In the beginning, back in 1895, chiropractic had one technique: D.D. Palmer’s technique — or “hand treatments” as he called them.  And only one person knew how to administer it:  D.D. Palmer.   Originally D.D. was quite secretive about his discovery, fearing others would steal it from him and become competitors.  Stories are told of how heavy drapes were drawn in his adjusting room to prevent others from sneaking a peek at his technique.  Apparently a long mirror used to hang in the treatment room and was used by Dr. Palmer to see the patient’s facial expressions during the adjustive thrust.  Care was taken that they were positioned in such a way that they could not see the mirror.  However,  if it was necessary that the patient had to face the mirror, D.D. made sure he blocked their view by standing between them and their reflection.  One day, Dr. Palmer was lax with his precautionary procedures and noticed his patient carefully observing his every move in the mirror.  Angered, he quickly remedied the situation by taking the mirror from the wall and breaking it into a thousand pieces.  [Attention chiropractors!  You too can double your patient volume overnight with this simple practice building tip!]. Needless to say, mirrors were not allowed in the treatment room after that.

It wasn’t until he faced a near death experience two years later that he decided that sharing his chiropractic technique with others might be a good idea.  In 1897, D.D. Palmer opened the Palmer School and Infirmary of Chiropractic.  Unfortunately —or maybe not, depending on your perspective — as he had originally feared  many of his  students turned into competitors and went off to open their own chiropractic schools shortly after graduation.

Every Chiropractor has a Virtual Tool Bag of Techniques to assist his patients.

And so the chiropractic family tree branched out.  Building on Palmer’s theories and techniques, different variations and improvements germinated — blossoming into well over 100 adjustive techniques, each with numerous variations, some 106 years later.  Undoubtedly, more are on the way.

So does all this really matter to the patient?  Well, technically no.  But patients should realize that their chiropractor has a virtual “toolbox,” as I like to call it, of techniques that they have acquired through years of training and have become highly skilled in their use.  What this means to the patient is that the correct “tool” or adjustive technique can be used and adapted to fit their age, size, and unique spinal problem.

An “adjustment” as seen by the Consortium for Chiropractic Research and the Chiropractic Technique advisory council to the American Chiropractic Association, is described as any “chiropractic procedure that utilizes controlled force, leverage, direction, amplitude, and velocity, which is directed at specific joints or anatomical regions.”  The definition continues by stating, “chiropractors often use such procedures to influence joint and neurophysiologial functions.”

What this means is that an adjustment has a purpose:  to restore joint motion and improve nerve function.  Some adjustments are fast, and some are slow.  Some require moderate force, and others require very little force.  Some adjustments will commonly make a popping noise, while others almost never do.   Your chiropractic doctor’s choice of technique will depend on a variety of factors such as your unique situation, your level of pain, his or her preferred style or specialty, and your comfort and/or preference.  It is also not uncommon for your chiropractor to utilize more than one technique during your treatment plan, or even on a particular visit.

This is really where the “art” of chiropractic is demonstrated, because not every chiropractor will reach for the same tool.  But regardless of the chiropractic technique that is ultimately utilized, the end goal is always the same:  to restore function and enhance the body’s natural healing mechanisms — an important point to remember, especially if you’re a chiropractic patient and find yourself confused after discussing your chiropractic experience with a friend in another town whose chiropractor does things very differently.

So what chiropractic techniques do I keep in my toolbox?  Ah Ha!  You’ll just have to make an appointment and find out.  Just don’t look in the mirror — I’m in the process of developing my own, “Lamar Technique.”

sources used for this article:
Adjustments and the Chiropractic Lifestyle.  (brochure).  Back Talk Systems.  1993.
Job Analysis of Chiropractic.  National Board of Chiropractic Examiners.  1993.
Peterson and Wiese.  Chiropractic:  an illustrated history.  Mosby -Year Book, Inc.  St. Louis.  1995.
Explore posts in the same categories: adjustment, chiropractic 101, chiropractic history

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One Comment on “Navigating the Chiropractic Technique Jungle”

  1. Dr. Mak Says:

    Chiropractic is truly unique in that we have the capacity to help so many different people with so many different problems. I’ve always believed that although Chiropractic may not be for everyone it can certainly help everyone in some way or on some level of the health spectrum.

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