Last week when I was in Spain, I became present to a subtle distinction that you might want to give some thought to. If my understanding is correct, it could significantly change what you do with every patient you adjust. Seems to me, becoming mindful of this observation could take the already excellent results you produce with most patients to an entirely new level. What could possibly be so revolutionary? A simple statement made by one of the speakers: “If you do the same thing, every time, with each patient there’s no art in your chiropractic.”
We have conveniently divided the practice of chiropractic into its science, art and philosophy. The science and philosophy have often served as the battleground for the schism between the vitalists and the mechanists. However, the “art” of chiropractic seems to have been ignored, or at least relegated to the notion of “artfully” and masterfully delivering your particular adjusting technique. Yet, this too easily overlooks one of the most dangerous aspects of working with the nervous system: it learns.
While many chiropractors aim to retrain the spine to assume a healthier pattern, exhibiting better balance and symmetry; even restoring more normal curves, this gives their chiropractic intervention a bone focus. In the process, they may be overlooking the ever watchful nervous system that learns to depend upon the repeated (and often visit-to-visit identical) thrusts, rather than using the energy and pattern interruption to right itself. In other words, while the chiropractor’s intent may be to correct the biomechanical relationships, in the process, the nervous system comes to expect the outside-in energy. (This is the concept of “entrainment” which Network Spinal Analysis developer and genius Dr. Donald Epstein has so well addressed.) This raises an even more fundamental question about your clinical motives. Is your intent to “fix” their spine, or is your intent to facilitate the patient’s body to do the fixing? The former is dangerously egotistical; the latter requires surrendering to the humble role of a servant.
In other words, are you attempting to “wake up” the patient’s body, reminding it that the physical, emotional or chemical stressor that produced the defense mechanism we call subluxation is no longer present and a more appropriate state or “tone” can be assumed, or are you attempting to use the energy you administer to their spine as a way to overpower the body’s errant way, like some physical therapist’s maniacal work hardening routine?
Is this why so many chiropractors (and patients) have come to link the sound of cavitation with the notion that progress is being made? "Not there…" [thrust] [CRACK!] "…there!" The implication is that the patient’s body is stupid and needs you to put things right. No wonder so many with this mechanistic bent find tonal techniques so abhorrent and unsatisfying. “It’s not even chiropractic,” they mutter self-righteously.
Seems to me (please remember I don’t know how to adjust), that a healthier relationship with the patient’s spine and nervous system would be to artfully remind it that the threat is gone and that it can relax from its now, inappropriate fight or flight response. And if that’s true, it would seem important that what you do on each visit should be different from what you did on the last—a neurological game of Marco Polo. Wake up! Over here! It’s okay! Now this! Marco! Polo!
Naturally, this approach requires considerably more thought, a mindful presence and clear clinical intentions. (You thought being an artist was easy?) Take this on and you avoid one of the most common clinical snares among chiropractors: thinking your thrusts are fixing the patient. If there’s going to be any fixing (or healing), the patient’s body will do it. If your adjustments are going to “hold,” it will be up to the patient’s body to hold them. Mindlessly thrusting the same way on every visit is drug-like, dumbing down the power of an adjustment. It neglects the art of chiropractic.
Am I missing something here?