“Wow... how did you know doc?”
“That’s right where I feel it!”
“You always seem to know right where to go!”
I hear these wonderful exclamations from patients every day. Some patients even throw the word “magician” around. My father, also a doctor of chiropractic, has had me as a patient ever since I was a baby. He amazed me, inspiring similar exclamations. Once his magic fingers were on me, he quickly found tender spots I never knew I had. Even though I felt fine and was receiving preventive care, I always felt better afterward! It was like he had special laser-guided sensors in his fingers...
a super power that I would later learn how to harness.
Though I won’t put you under my spell, in this article I will demystify the seemingly magical abilities that chiropractors use in reading the body to reveal underlying problems. By using a subtle eye and touch, chiropractors observe changes that point to the cause of your condition. Once you understand more about your own physiology, you will quickly recognize that you don’t need to go to Dr. Houdini or Dr. Copperfield to regain your pain-free health and comfort. You simply have to go to a doctor of chiropractic.
Okay, first the bad news. The bones making up your spinal column can become misaligned. Of greater consequence, the displaced segments interfere with the delicate nerve roots that branch from your spinal cord. These nerves contain the vital wire-like tracts that your brain uses to communicate messages of control to all parts of your body: organs, muscles, glands, etc. Most of the messages course to parts of your body which are unable to feel sensations. Think about the last time you slept wrong and woke with an achy pancreas; this never happens because there is no sensory nerve supply to most organs. With stealth-like ability, problems without apparent symptoms lead to functional alteration and ensuing diseases that can creep up on even the most unsuspecting so called “healthy” victims. That’s why chiropractic care, with its eerily reliable early detection, should be used as a preventive action step to a healthier you!
The good news is that once a misalignment in your back or neck occurs, your body engages in an abundant dance of physiological responses in order to counteract the threat. The steps range from guarding the injury with deliberate muscle spasms that immobilize the misaligned spinal bones to shifts in posture. Also present may be a colorful display of symptoms to fill the diagnostic palette. Heat emission and/or swelling from localized points of inflammation and fixated joints that are tight when felt tend to broadcast their existence. Abnormal bone positions are evident with trained palpation. All of these signs and symptoms become a trail of clues that chiropractors skillfully track.
Part of the mysterious nature of our work tends to result from the speed by which we are able to calculate many findings upon examination. This is a skill set that takes years to master. As a student, I would develop my sense of touch by feeling for a single thread blanketed by the pages of the Atlanta phone book. Layers of pages would be added as my sensitivity strengthened. Countless hours practicing on the phone book, other students and anybody with a spine and pulse that I could get my hands on (or no pulse, as in the case of the cadaver that I spent months studying and dissecting) brought a day when I started to feel subtle biological changes in the body with ease and precision. After years in practice, the skills required to practice chiropractic have become like an additional sense ability, as normal to me as seeing and hearing.
Chiropractors use a variety of methods to determine the exact points and vectors where they apply the gentle force to comfortably realign your spine. Imagine you are a patient ready to be helped, and you visit my office. You have several areas of spinal misalignment, some with symptoms that produce pain and others that exist in silence. As I watch you walk toward me, I notice slight changes in how one side of your body moves compared to the other. We greet each other, exchanging warm smiles, as I visually scan 10 points on your body in order to read your posture. Building on the instant information just gathered, I feel your spine gently with my finger pads. I am scanning for slight variations of bone position that stray from normal, while concurrently feeling for fixated areas of lost flexibility, swelling and points of excess heat.
I employ additional techniques to read responses in your nervous system that occur when an area of discord is touched. Joints that are misaligned or fixated over stimulate their nerve receptors when compared to those in a normal and healthy state. Pressing on these points with a subtlety like that used to depress a doorbell causes an additional barrage of nerve input to the brain. Much like flickering lights during a storm, for a few seconds while the brain attempts to process this large inflow, all of the muscles within the body weaken. While applying gentle downward pressure on your extended arm, I use my other hand to press on points of concern. When a problem spot is found, your arm weakens with a slight drop. I then push in the direction that a correction would be applied and notice how your strength is regained. Confirmation. This method has proven invaluable as a detailed analysis that uncovers the most complex and hidden problems not only within the spine, pelvis and bones of the skull, but also with the joints and connective tissues of the arms and legs.
Your body is an open book written in a rich language easily read by a doctor of chiropractic. With the skillful use of analytic methods, chiropractors can uncover your problem areas before you even speak. The rapid and unique manner by which chiropractors analyze your body would cause even the most famous magicians to exclaim, “How does he do it!” No rabbits in a hat or laser-guided sensors are needed; just a sound understanding of how the body reacts to problems and years of training. And, just so you know, despite all I have revealed in this article, it’s alright with me if my patients continue to believe I have super-powers!