Chiropractic was crafted and defined by DD Palmer over 130 years ago. Didn’t take long for the definition to become inveigled. So much so that the science and art of chiropractic have been redefined by every State of the Union, not to mention six continents. Palmer jealously watched it all go down in the early days and spoke against it, but the wheels of change often prove difficult to slow once they’ve gained traction it seems. As a young chiropractic student in Texas I saw two popular schools of Philosophy in the early 2000’s. The subluxation based philosophy guys, who I tended to jive with; although, often I found their Philosophy outweighed their art thanks to the, “evertything works 80/10/10” mantra, therefore; what’s the point of developing your art beyond the level of mediocrity? So swooned by the brilliance of our creation and Innate intelligence these guys were ready to “save lives” by correcting subluxations. Sadly, those poor bastards generally didn’t know how to identify a subluxation, let alone correct it. There was also a more cynical camp in school. Evidence and Science based chiropractors they were. These guys either believed subluxations didn’t exist, or became so obsessed with neurology that they lost sight that strictly working from a mechanical perspective alone could fix a high enough percentage of the pain population that they wouldn’t have time to worry about the outliers of the bell-curve who were too “neurologically brittle” to tolerate a manipulative therapy. These differing schools both had some merit, but I couldn’t get on board with some of the personalities selling their systems at the time. They rarely cared about the clinical approach, and openly stated they’d manipulate emotions of patients in order to get them to consent to care plans. I even remember one big shot management guy out of Florida talking to our class about being a “straight chiropractor”, but rationalized offering chair massages at screenings to talk about chiropractic. The pitch was that, although not chiropractic, massages felt good and you could get people to sit down and listen to you sell your services while you rubbed their shoulders. It has come to my attention that Fred Barge would have retorted that doling out blow jobs would get the line of people to grow more quickly for the exact same reasons, although it might prove difficult to talk, and of course using your hands would reflect the massage/chiropractic similarities more effectively, but I digress.
Time has shown me that I was one lucky bastard to be at the time and place I entered chiropractic. I really fell in love with the thought of fixing people without the aid of drugs or surgery, but knew little of chiropractic upon entering college. I checked out clubs on campus and really started digging these guys doing something called torque release. They talked of 27 indicators of subluxation, they had this cool little doo dad to fix subluxations, these guys could really talk to the innate it seemed! Problem was I couldn’t. I tried it, gave it my best, but ultimately I couldn’t get those leg length tests to prove consistent, and it just kinda started to smell a little bit like bullshit.
I was lucky enough to be studying with a friend who was a Gonstead savant. Told the guy I thought I was subluxated, and he analyzed my spine in a surprisingly straightforward fashion. He found something, I felt that very something in my sacroiliac joint as he was touching it, it felt kinda sickly. Then he corrected the misaligned articulation in the precise vector that he said we should. I felt that illium move cleanly to the sacrum, I knew my anatomy…That kinda made sense, I was buying it; it wouldn’t make me feel guilty to sell such a service. What also was awesome is that this all jived with what DD Palmer had talked about. I knew I had to do what my friend, Ted could do. As far as science of chiropractic was concerned it seemed addressed by this protocol, in the simplest of ways. Just as a 4th grade science fair project has a hypothesis and a procedure, so does each adjustment. And if it’s done precisely, a follow up check of the patient should reveal how that hypothesis held up… It don’t get more science than that. I don’t need double blind placebo controls, I just want to deliver an adjustment that could warrant a ribbon in the science fair, preferably blue...
I’d love to say that the next part of the story was easy and my soul was fulfilled, but it didn’t quite go story book/fairy tale from there. What happened next was me busting my ass trying to learn how to deliver these precise adjustments. It was hard. That sucked because the first time I had attempted one of those supine cervical breaks I was able to pop stuff… But as I worked I pondered. And as I thought about it, doing things the way Gonstead espoused just made more sense. I was reared in the dawn of MRI times in the good old south. Everybody had a disc bulge, and they “needed” a surgical intervention. This guy from Wisconsin was talking about fixing discs back before the MRI had ever even been conceived. These beliefs kept me going as I sucked my way through learning how to deliver a seated cervical adjustment. I knew that you couldn’t correct a posterior inferior segment from a supine position. You could crack the shit out of it that way if you twisted hard enough, but discs don’t appear as if they’d enjoy that based on their anatomical makeup. I’d like to say that sucking at adjusting got better quickly, there were times at a year into it that I believed that. I was wrong, but I’m glad I was able to believe that then. Around graduation time on campus I was considered the guy to get an L5 adjustment by from some underclass Gonstead enthusiasts… so that was nice, but I still sucked donkey balls at adjusting for the most part.
I opened my own little Gonstead practice, followed what was taught at the seminars and had clinical successes. I failed some people that I’d like another shot at, but that’s how it works, I suppose. What I did not enjoy was financial success, or an overflowing practice. A LOT of bumps continued to mar my path, but I had my convictions thanks to my attendance to a couple of seminars a year. Here I could see people who did consistently what I did intermittently, and I wanted it desperately. Not to the tune of working from 6 AM to 2 AM 6 1/2 days a week with a generous break for supper. But in a nice little 8-5 normal kinda guy schedule, maybe see a meager 120 people a week. That was my idea of clinical chiropractic nirvana. It took longer than I’d like to admit to approach that frequency, but as I sit at the cusp of it, I realize I don’t suck at adjusting too badly now. I’ve got some serious holes in my game, but I am getting to the point where I have some idea of what the hell I’m doing. I like it, and patients actually trust me. When I don’t get the set I want or the results aren’t as expected, they’re giving me the opportunity to put those things right. I’m not sure when that started happening, but I do know that they had to feel that I thought I knew what I was doing before they’d go along with me. And most of the time if they give me time fix them, we fix them.