Chiropractic Techniques

Anyone who has benefited from chiropractic care knows that every chiropractor has his or her own style and methods. Among the many techniques used today, a broad distinction can be used to group them as either a ‘manual’ or a ‘tonal’ approach.

The most widely used, and probably the most conventional chiropractic technique is known as Diversified in the profession. Chiropractors are trained to palpate the articulations of the spine, assess dysfunction in the mobility of these joints, and then apply by the use of their hands, a thrust that corrects and restores the mobility. This adjustment frequently causes cavitation in the joint, (the popping sound), and sometimes, immediate relief as joint motion is restored. Many other techniques have been developed using a variety of tools such as wedges, mechanical tables, traction, and adjusting devices to perform the adjustment, and virtually every practicing chiropractor eventually blends many techniques to develop his or her unique style.

Another approach is the group of techniques known as tonal adjusting. With these techniques, the aim is to affect muscle and nerve tone by making use of the body’s reflexes, and applying surprisingly light forces to the spine, again either by hand or with adjusting instruments. With these adjustments, very little is felt by the patient initially.

Here is the most common theory of how the tonal adjustment affects the nervous system.

The spinal cord is the extension of the brain, and travels downward through the middle of the spine, in the neural canal, protected by its bony casing. At every vertebral level, nerves from the cord exit the spine on each side and travel to all regions of the body. This central nervous system is lined by a layer of connective tissue, the meninges, (three layers actually, but we’re getting too detailed) which both protects it and keeps it bathed in spinal fluid. ligaments which are extensions of the meninges, and extend from the cord outwards to the bony spine. These provide support of the cord while allowing it to move with the flexing, extending and rotation of the spine. When local muscle tension or spasms occur in the spine, the vertebrae may be pulled in asymmetric fashion and the mobility of the joints is compromised. This causes tension of the meningeal (or dural) sleeve which pulls on the supporting ligaments, which tensions and twists the spinal cord. This results in interference of the flow of information traveling up and down the cord. Still with me?

Tonal techniques then are aimed at releasing that dural tension, either by activating reflexes at specific points along the spine, or by creating a pulse wave throughout the cord, usually with an adjusting instrument, or light manual adjusting of the top vertebra of the spine, thereby releasing the tension on the nerves.

Conventional, manual adjusting is sometimes called a muscle and bone ‘mechanistic’ approach to chiropractic by those that use tonal adjusting, The argument is that manual adjusting concentrates solely on back pain, while tonal adjusting aims towards proper function of the nervous system. I would argue though that any technique that improves and restores spinal mobility is going to release tension on the nervous system, making for a healthier patient.

On April 3rd, 2012, posted in: Uncategorized by
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