Adjustment vs. Manipulation

To the lay person, the chiropractic Adjustment is synonymous with the term Manipulation, and for some manual practitioners they too believe they’re the same.

For a Gonstead Chiropractor the two are not synonymous because a Gonstead Adjustment is completely different to the above mentioned.  How so?  The major difference is that a Gonstead Chiropractor looks at the human vertebrae in a more detailed manner, i.e. we look at how the vertebra subluxates (moves out of its normal working position) with a greater mechanical approach and eye.

Biomechanically speaking the subluxated vertebra (vertebra that’s not sitting correctly) moves out of position in a three dimensional way, i.e. it rotates on all three axes namely x,y and z axes as shown below in Figure 1.

Vertebra Rotations

Figure 2, shows how this malpositioned vertebra actually sits on the one below.  It is of utmost importance to the Gonstead Chiropractor to understand this relationship so that the chiropractor can reposition it, by “adjusting” the vertebra, in as accurate a manner as possible in order to achieve an optimal positive neurological (nerve related) outcome.

Bulging Disc
Fig. 2

This why a Gonstead practitioner is skilfully trained to:

  • Read x rays with a biomechanical and analytical eye
  • Visually look at a patient’s posture, movements, etc., for a mechanical association
  • Statically palpate (examine by touching) the spine, joint or injured site for physical signs of a subluxation
  • Motion palpate the joint/s in questions to assist in finding the vertebra in question
  • Use instrumentation (Nervoscope) as another tool to accumulate information in honing in on the affected vertebra
  • Adjust the vertebra in question in a PRECISE way, keeping in mind the three axes of rotation, to achieve an optimal result for the patient
  • Reassess the movement at the affected joint to ensure an improvement in its position & movement

Practitioners who are not Gonstead trained or manual therapists who manipulate will most likely look at a one dimensional aspect of a vertebra only, namely, whether the vertebra has rotated left or right.  This is only part of the overall picture when correcting or adjusting a subluxated vertebra in order to optimally restore mechanical and neurological function to a person’s spine.

This practical and detailed analysis not only applies to the spine but to every joint in the human body, however, it is assessed and adjusted differently according to the architecture of that specific joint, for example, a pelvic versus an elbow joint just to name two completely different-shaped joints.

I hope you can now appreciate how specific, detailed and thorough Michael’s treatment is.

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