I get some revealing answers when I ask chiropractors, especially those still in chiropractic college, what they think an adjustment does. After a long, uncomfortable pause I can tell that they’re either not sure, have never thought about it or more likely, they’ve never actually had to put their own mental representation into words. Some, I suppose, are fearful that their working model of an adjustment might be amateurish or miss the mark completely. Yet, there is very little more important than being clear about what an adjustment is, what it does, what it doesn’t do and what your intention is when delivering one. Without clarity on this vital issue, you’ll resort to being a spine “fixer,” deluded into thinking you’re the one doing the healing! Many chiropractors have fallen into this trap.
But before considering the adjustment, consider the circumstances that appear to necessitate an adjustment, namely, a spinal bone that is malpositioned relative to the one above or below it. Before attempting to “correct” the situation and rescue the patient from their subluxation, consider how and why the bone got malpositioned in the first place.
A Survival Strategy
Apparently, when the body cannot accommodate some physical, chemical or emotional stress, it attempts to adapt by assuming a defensive posture. Thus, subluxation is a survival strategy. Since bones are static structures that only move when muscles contract, and muscles only contract on the command of the nervous system, a subluxation is essentially a nervous system phenomomen. To override the intelligence of the body that put the bone into a particular configuration, without first considering the physical, chemical or emotional cause, is not only presumptuous and egotistical, but the height of folly if you have any hope of being an instrument to making significant or lasting change.
That makes a subluxation a symptom. But it can also be a cause, producing collateral damage, not unlike a damaged roof can be the cause of a stained ceiling or a water-damaged carpet.
When Chiropractic Doesn’t Work
Why is the joint fixated? Is the stressor still present? Or does the body lack the resources or awareness to restore a more normal relationship? Naturally, you’d want to make this determination before injecting any type of energy into their spine in an attempt to make a correction!
Has their frustration and anger from being trapped in a dead end job been resolved? Has the habit of drinking three Starbucks double espressos in the morning and a six-pack in the evening been abandoned? Has the stress of sleeping on their stomach on a sagging 20-year old box spring mattress been discarded? When the patient asserts “I didn’t do anything!” doc, it’s tempting to look past the cumulative hidden emotional and chemical stressors. But neglect them, and you’ll be confronted with an increasing number of situations in which it appears that chiropractic doesn’t work. Enough of them and it may even call into question the career path you’ve chosen. Or more likely, prompt an ever-ending quest for a new technique or modality that can give your healing intent greater horsepower. (Decompression, laser therapy or acupuncture anyone?)
If the patient’s circumstances suggest that thrusting along facetal joint planes is appropriate, just what is it going to do? Many chiropractors (and most patients) assume that the thrust puts the bone back into its rightful place. Of course if this was true, it would only take one adjustment and you’d send the patient on their way. True, in a few cases, a single adjustment does produce symptomatic improvement, these are often the same patients who experience a relapse and want a similar one-visit repeat performance! So, something else must be in play.
Take No Credit
What if the adjustment simply adds energy that the body uses as it sees fit? What if an adjustment is merely a nudge; a coaxing that assists the body in making the necessary change? What if the adjustment is merely a physical means for delivering your intention? What if the adjustment was just a way to attract the attention of the patient’s body and remind it to abandon its defense strategy?
Since there isn’t a recorded instance of a doctor (of any ilk) ever healing a patient, why is there the temptation to not only be responsible, but to take credit for restoring a patient’s spinal biomechanics and reducing their most obvious symptomatic complaint? Not only can you not control such outcomes, it makes you and your adjustment big, while making the patient and their God-given ability to heal, small. If an adjustment merely helps the body right itself, and all you actually do is to determine if, where and when the adjustment will be delivered, it would seem that by taking credit for what the patient’s body is doing is actually a form of stealing!