Overview of the Three Most Common Chiropractic Treatment Techniques
Gonstead, Diversified and Activator techniques are the top three chiropractic treatment methods. Collectively, they represent over 95% of what chiropractors use when treating their patient. In this article, we provide some background information on all three. However, before we begin our discussion, let’s briefly go over the purpose of chiropractic. Chiropractic care is the most effective treatment method for many conditions such as neck pain, back pain, scoliosis, sciatica, slipped disc, joint pain, sports injuries, spondylolisthesis, and spondylosis. There are hundreds of other conditions that could be effectively treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic. Moreover, there are thousands of published studies that reveal the health benefits of chiropractic care. Some reporting chiropractic and spinal manipulations (adjustments) to be two times more effective than the traditional medical care for the spine.
What are the Best Methods of Chiropractic Treatment?
Gonstead, Diversified and Activator are the best three chiropractic treatment methods. Yes, these three methods top the list. However, in our opinion, treatment rendered through an Activator is better than Gonstead or Diversified. There are several reasons why we treat patients through an Activator instrument. We are going to cover them in the coming sections. First, let’s see what makes a given technique superior to others.
How Specific are the Chiropractic techniques provided in a Side-lying position or those requiring Rotation of the Neck or Back?
Procedures such as the side posture adjustment (lying on one’s side for the low back treatment), anterior thoracic adjustment and the rotatory cervical or neck treatment accompany are examples of non-specific treatments. They are non-specific as they provide mobilizations for multiple segments. In short, they lack the precision needed for targeting one segment. Generally speaking, these are the methods where a “cracking” or audible popping sound is heard. In other words, they are general mobilizations that induce mobility. General mobilization is best for the non-acute patients presenting with multiple hypo-mobile segments. In our opinion, patients presenting with acute conditions, torn discs, inflamed joints or injured soft tissues are better treated through targeted methods that allows precision.
Methods incorporating precision targeting are better tolerated compared to the rotatory (twisting) techniques. Patient tolerance is an essential factor. Most manual methods require specific positioning of a patient in need of care. Patients in pain will almost always feel a varying degree of discomfort with most pre-treatment positioning of the manual (hands-on) methods. For example, a back pain patient may experience more discomfort when they are rolled forward from their side-lying position with a flexed knee. An increase in discomfort at the time of positioning or during the process of adjustment causes an involuntary muscle tightening. The same applies to those receiving care from a rotational treatment for neck pain. The involuntary muscle tension is an uncontrollable automated response known as paraphysiological muscle guarding or response.
Importance of Paraphysiological Muscle Response During the Chiropractic Adjustment
Your nervous system controls the entire body. This controlling mechanism is either voluntary or involuntary, and it impacts every cell or tissue including muscles, ligaments, joints and spinal discs. Physiological muscle response occurs when a muscle is stimulated; resulting in contraction or tightening of that muscle. Paraphysiological muscle response is an automatic guarding mechanism that protects us from injury. It occurs when our body or part of our body is positioned oddly. Let’s look at the Gonstead, Diversified and Activator methods and their impact on physiological muscle response.
Should You Avoid the Rotational Chiropractic Treatments?
While the rotational chiropractic adjustments feel good, it may be harmful. Published research in reputable chiropractic journals calls for non-rotatory methods of chiropractic treatments. The main reason for this is to avoid further injury or damage. Rotational methods and techniques are associated with an audible popping sound or cracking. We understand that the cracking of the spine feels good for most, but if you have a degenerated disc, slipped disc (bulging or herniated disc), sprained back or scoliosis; than the rotatory methods of chiropractic treatments are not for you. Let’s assess the Gonstead, Diversified and Activator systems of care and their rotational components.
Forceful Versus the High-Velocity Chiropractic Treatment or Adjustment
The goal with Gonstead, Diversified and Activator treatments is to restore stability in joints and soft tissues. As mentioned, there are hundreds of methods used by chiropractors, some of which are forceful. Techniques that use more force can cause soreness or complications. Patients with acute conditions such as a disc disorder, sprained or sprained spine or joint shouldn’t opt for treatments through a forceful method.
What Is the Activator Method?
The activator method refers to a unique treatment system for treating neck pain, back pain, joint pain, sports injuries, scoliosis, slipped disc patients and those who present with headaches or migraines.
It is a method that is completed using an “Activator Adjusting Instrument. The Activator is a hand-held device that delivers small doses of high-velocity impulses into the spine or joints. The aim is to maximize stability and improve mobility in the vertebra or joints. It’s important to note this technique is a direct replacement for a manual technique such as the Diversified or Gonstead methods.
There are several advantages with treatments given by the Activator Adjusting Instrument or Activator Chiropractic Methods (ACM). It provides precision targeting of joints and spine at a degree not possible with the manual or hands-on method of Gonstead or Diversified. The depth of treatment is also controlled at better levels with an activator. ACM is a well-researched non-rotatory, non-forceful method. Its’ proven clinical successes are the main reason why so many Doctors of chiropractic have started to use it as their primary means of care.
The Advantages of ACM Treatments
Activator offers a controlled and direct low-amplitude high-velocity impulse to manipulate joint of tissues. The primary reason chiropractors prefer to use this technique has to do with the precision targeting and velocity of the treatment impulse.
An Overview of the Gonstead Chiropractic Technique
Dr. Clarence Selmer Gonstead was born in 1898 and passed way in 1978. He founded the Gonstead chiropractic technique in the 1940s. In the 1960’s Chiropractic Universities started teaching the Gonstead technique. Today, it is one of the top three most utilized chiropractic treatment technique in the world. Dr. Gonstead developed several chiropractic concepts. These include primary and secondary subluxations, as well as the concept of compensation. According to Dr. Gonstead, there is a compensation for every subluxation. These theories are incorporated in all chiropractic methods including those delivered through the Diversified chiropractic techniques and the Activator. Dr. Gonstead is the most notable researcher on theories of spinal stability through chiropractic treatment.
Analysis of the Diversified Chiropractic Technique
The Diversified method of chiropractic treatment is the most common type of chiropractic adjustment. It is the primary technique taught to chiropractic students. An estimated 95% of chiropractors are proficient in the Diversified methods of chiropractic treatment. In short, it is the technique most patients are familiar with. Diversified adjustment is somewhat similar to the Gonstead method as it entails a high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, resulting in cavitation or “cracking” (popping sounds). Both have some degree of scissoring movements or rotations, but Diversified is reliant more on the rotatory or scissoring system of treatment.
Dr. D. D. Palmer developed the Diversified chiropractic technique. Dr. Palmer is the founder of the chiropractic profession. He was the first to coin the term subluxation. Dr. Palmer discovered the profession of Chiropractic in 1895. Diversified became the main chiropractic treatment methods with the emergence of Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1904. The reason why it is taught to all chiropractic students is that of the fact that the professions’ founder discovered it.
If you spend enough time in the chiropractic community, you hear many dos and don’ts. Some of the ‘rules’ that are taught to up-and-coming chiropractors make sense, but some are merely rules of thumb that get repeated without full understanding. All too often, newly qualified chiropractors accept rules as gospel and repeat them, not realizing why they were taught to avoid certain moves or why certain adjustments are performed in a given way.
How MRI Debunked the Gonstead Theory of Pelvic Misalignment as the Cause for the Subluxated or Misaligned Spine?
We mentioned that MRI had debunked the pelvis as sources of subluxations or misalignments; let’s see how? Review of pelvic and Lumbar MRI of patients with low back pain (subluxations or misalignments) has confirmed the existence degenerative changes and inflammatory changes in spinal joints in the absence of an inflammatory reaction in the sacroiliac joint (pelvis).
Difference Between Gonstead and Diversified Chiropractic Techniques
Rotation is something that is taught as being dangerous, and young students are told to avoid rotational prestress, for fear of severe, adverse outcomes. Such outcomes are unlikely if the chiropractor is well trained, and provides the treatment carefully. However, scoliotic patients, moderately inflamed joints and those diagnosed with spinal disc damage such as tears or herniations may experience complications with Gonstead and Diversified methods.
As mentioned earlier, the “scissoring” move, especially for neck or low back treatments are the reasons for these complications. Dr. Gonstead advocated a non-scissoring move. However, performing Gonstead without scissoring hands is hard for new chiropractors. It takes at least a decade to master! So, most still incorporate the “scissoring” into the Gonstead method. The scissoring two-hand move is evident in the newly trained Gonstead practitioner.
Few Chiropractic Universities teach Gonstead techniques to students. The main reason being the time it consumes in becoming highly proficient. Those who are not taught during their studies will have a difficult time becoming proficient. Most have to rely on weekend courses to learn the method. Weekend courses offer limited training, yet another reason why many Gonstead practitioners are incorporating the Diversified scissoring moves into the Gonstead technique.
The two-hand ‘scissoring’ methods as provided through the Diversified and Gonstead produce an audible crack (popping sound). It may even feel good. Yes, the cracking sound is satisfying, and the patient may also enjoy a feeling of released pressure, but if the adjustment wasn’t the right one, then pain is going to return very quickly.
The Diversified, Activator and Gonstead techniques are the chiropractic treatment methods that have stood the test of time. In general, the non-force activator method provides all-encompassing control without further aggravation. This is essential in managing severe herniation and canal stenosis; otherwise, the condition can worsen over time. The process is efficient, safer, and better when weighing various pros and cons.