Owatonna Chiropractor Tells All About the Gonstead Technique

There are as many styles of chiropractic care as there are flavors in an ice cream parlor. In fact, there are more styles of chiropractic care than flavors of ice cream in any store I have ever been in. It has been estimated that there are over 200 different types of chiropractic techniques that have developed since the beginning of the profession in 1895. The multiplicity of techniques arises from two primary factors. First, the developers of techniques tend to view one clinical issue in the body with paramount importance. Second, they develop a unique and idiosyncratic approach to dealing with the issue they are concerned with. A perfect example of this process unfolding is the Gonstead Technique.

Clarence Gonstead was a chiropractor who graduated from the Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1923. He began practicing in the small town of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. The beginning of his practicing career was humble and little known. He built up an incredible reputation within his community of being able to help people with all sorts of different conditions. Soon, the word spread to other towns and cities that were nearby. Eventually, the other chiropractors in his area caught wind of how successful he had become in his clinical work, and they wanted to learn what Gonstead had discovered. This is how the Gonstead Technique became formalized.

It's difficult to keep what you do a secret when it is so successful that you need to build the largest chiropractic clinic in the world at the time to process all the patients that are coming to see you. Gonstead’s clinic was so successful that he eventually hired four other full-time chiropractors to take care of the volume of patients that were presenting to have their various aches and pain alleviated. People would come in for all sorts of problems like whiplash, shoulder pain, arm pain, leg pain, neck pain, back pain, headaches, migraines, sciatica, disc herniations, thyroiditis, digestive complaints, among many other conditions and symptoms. Dr. Gonstead had the reputation that he could help just about anyone.

The technique that he had developed, which gave him so much success, was based upon sound biomechanical principles coupled with careful clinical work. The focus of the technique is finding intervertebral discs which have shifted out of their proper position and are putting pressure on nerves. The technique consists of five main diagnostic branches; namely, observation, static palpation, motion palpation, x-ray analysis, and instrumentation. Observation is viewing the skin of the spine as well as the general shape of the spinal column and back. What we look for are deformities to the shape of the spine, as well as changes to the surface of the skin. These clues can help us identify where there are areas of the spine that may be putting pressure on nerves, causing the symptoms people experience. For example, an isolated tuft of hair on the back can be a strong indicator that there have been chronic alterations to the function of the nerve that supplies that area of skin. Static palpation is when we feel for misalignments of the bony parts of the back, swollen areas which can indicate injured joints, tender areas that reveal inflammation, and tissue changes like the redness reflex and orange peeling which can all help us find areas of chronic nerve pressure. Motion palpation is what we do when we feel the vertebrae moving on top of one another. Subtle changes to the symmetry of the movement of the joint to each side can be discerned after years of experience. Asymmetries in the movement of the joints can reveal areas of fixation. Fixation leads to inflammation and nerve pressure. X-ray analysis is a critical component of the Gonstead Technique. A patient’s x-rays can tell us where not to adjust, as well as how to adjust the joints we determine to be subluxated, or misaligned and causing nerve pressure, during our spinal examination. Instrumentation involves utilizing a device called a nervoscope to find areas of heat difference along the spine. A spike in a heat reading over one vertebra in the spine is indicative of nerve pressure.

A Gonstead chiropractor takes all this information and puts it together to determine which bones in the spine need to be adjusted and which ones do not need to be adjusted. Various tables are employed to help the patient be as relaxed as possible. Dr. Gonstead focused on making sure the patient did not feel any discomfort during their adjustments, and we strive to reproduce the same level of comfort in our adjusting. If you’ve never experienced being under the care of a Gonstead chiropractor, then I highly recommend you schedule a consultation with one today.

About the author:

Dr. Joshua Burnham is an Owatonna chiropractor who specializes in the Gonstead Technique. He can be reached through his practice website.