Paradigm Shifts in Chiropractic

Posted On: May 19, 2012

I am Dr. David Johnson and I am both a chiropractic physician and a physical therapist. I have been practicing since 1988 and I have been witness to a lot of changes in the chiropractic profession.

When I first went to chiropractic school at the Logan College of Chiropractic there was a shift in how things were being thought of in the profession. For years chiropractors believed that vertebrae slipped out of place and as a result pinched the nerve that exits between the vertebrae. This was called a subluxation. When I got to Logan the younger more progressive chiropractors were introducing the students to the fact that the bones weren’t out of place but rather there was a loss of movement between them. In essence, the two vertebrae were felt to be stuck together.

This was a huge paradigm shift in the profession as it meant you no longer were looking for vertebra to be outlined on x-rays but rather you found areas of restriction by gently pushing into their spine to feel the areas of restriction. The skill at finding these restrictions was called motion palpation. This movement was championed by a man called Dr. Faye. Dr. Faye started the Motion Palpation Institute and instructed chiropractors in this new skill across the country. In my second semester at Logan we reviewed all of Dr. Faye’s techniques and learned how to find fixations using a seated screen that he had helped to develop.

In the third semester we got the old school chiropractors who were going to teach us their techniques based on the older bone out of place subluxation model. For most of my class it was too late, we all understood that vertebra don’t slip out of place, but rather get stuck or fixated. This was a constant source of frustration for the older guard, but it didn’t have to be. The reality is that there techniques work extremely well to free up restrictions and always have.

This was an early experience for me in my educational process. It was tremendously valuable to have seen and taken part in such a paradigm shift. I have been witness to other paradigm shifts in the profession, like the movement from heat to ice, the shift from manipulation to flexion distraction to treat disc herniation and then the movement to extension based therapies for these conditions. Finally I have seen a shift from quoting excerpts from the literature to relying on an evidence based approach based on clinical trials.

I will write more about these and other paradigm shifts in my future blogs as I think they are important to understand.

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