Chiropractic – 3 Common Mistakes to Avoid (and What to Do Instead)

© Dane Roubos, D.C.

 Description: Have you ever been hurt by a chiropractor or other health care provider? If not, you’ve probably heard stories. This article covers 3 common “mistakes” made in spinal adjusting. You will learn what to do instead to help prevent injuries, preserve your well-being, and get to the bottom of your health issue.

Every Therapy Has its Risks and Benefits
Every practitioner should do their best to insure their patients are protected from the risks. As consumers of any type of health care, it is up to us to use common sense and protect ourselves in cases where the provider does not. Would you agree?

Here are some common situations in chiropractic (and other types of care) that pose some risk of injury, aggravation, or ineffective treatment. I’m including suggestions to help you avert those risks and get your health needs met.
Mistake #1: Forceful Adjusting When the Body Isn't Ready to Receive It

Many chiropractors use some type of therapy before adjusting to "loosen things up." While this is usually helpful, to me it often doesn't go far enough. It's best if your body is relaxed, and clear of "energetic blocks" in the area that's going to be adjusted.

I'm sure you know what "relaxed" means, but what's an energetic block? Basically, it's where a force or energy got stuck in your body, from an old injury or other traumatic experience. Familiar examples include trauma from car accidents, bad falls and surgeries. Less familiar (but far more common) examples include physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and old "stuffed" emotions.

When the body sustains a physical injury, it needs to process the force that came in and hopefully release it in some way. Wild animals do this naturally, but humans often suppress the process because we want to look good and be cool – especially us guys.

In a similar fashion, emotional energies (emotions = energy in motion) can get stored in our bodies, too. Imagine the terror of a young child being abused or threatened. A child doesn't have the nervous system development to process such an experience, and it would tend to be stored somewhere in the body. If this occurred often, the cumulative effect would be more intense.

These storage places usually remain subconscious – we're not consciously aware of the feelings or physical traumas there. However, these stored energies disrupt the normal flow of acupuncture meridians and the lymphatic system in that area. Such areas don't function as well as their neighbors, and are prone to future injuries or dysfunction. Eventually, they're more likely to become problem spots.

I feel it's generally not a good idea to apply force to such a place, unless the residuals of the old trauma are first released with a gentle technique, such as CranioSacral Therapy. Depending on the situation, psychological support might also be appropriate.

To be fair, the application of force isn't just a chiropractic problem.  Some type of force is commonly used in medicine (including surgery), physical therapy, osteopathy and agressive massage, to name a few.

What To Do Instead
1. Make an agreement with your practitioner that they won't put a force into your body unless you feel relaxed and your body is ready to receive it. Be cautious around areas that you know were previously traumatized.

2. Consider gentle, relaxing therapies that actually address some of the underlying causes of joint restrictions. CranioSacral Therapy helps to release deep tension and old trauma from the body. Lymph Drainage Therapy is very relaxing, and usually reduces muscle tension and tenderness by 50% in a couple of minutes. On several occasions, I've seen Lymphatic therapy completely dissolve nasty spinal restrictions and restore normal motion in about 10 minutes, without the treatment causing any pain.

Mistake #2: Adjusting When the Joints Are Already Too Loose

This is a no-brainer. I'm referring to joints in the spine or extremities where the supporting ligaments have been damaged or over-stretched. A joint with loose ligaments is referred to as "hyper-mobile," meaning it already moves too much. Forcefully adjusting hyper-mobile joints just adds insult to injury and serves no useful purpose.

Of course, people who "crack" their own necks or back might be unwittingly causing harm by doing so.

What To Do Instead
1. Don't crack your own neck or back unless you have a skilled pro check you out, preferrably with a technique called "Motion Palpation," (see link at end) to make sure those joints aren't hyper-mobile, and are actually restricted.

2. Ask anyone proposing to give you an adjustment to test your joint motion first to insure that there is actually a joint restriction there.

3. Make sure anyone proposing to give you an adjustment is well-trained (and licensed) to do so. There are massage therapists and other practitioners out there who think they can perform adjustments because they can make your joints pop. Don’t let them do it!

And now, for the last "mistake" . . .

Mistake #3: Adjusting When the Joints Are Not the Real Cause of the Problem

You've probably heard the phrase, "When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see a lot of nails." Unfortunately, this is especially true in the healing professions. We've all been guilty of it; myself included.

About a zillion therapies exist (give or take a million or two), and us humans naturally love to feel we "have the answer." When we've been trained to provide a particular therapy, we tend to think it's good for "what ails you," (which means just about everything). In my opinion, that's just not the case with most chiropractic adjustments and many other therapies as well.

Just Focusing on Chiropractic Adjustments, Here's Why:

  • The energetic blocks I mentioned in #1 above are actually one of the underlying causes of many  physical ailments we suffer from today, including spinal problems. By disrupting normal body functions, energetic blocks cause real physical problems.
  • Blocked energy impairs lymphatic flow, which creates a toxic build-up in the tissues. Accumulated toxins create pain, organ dysfunction, tight muscles and a host of other unpleasantries.
  • Spinal restrictions can also be caused by restrictions or tension in our organ systems, which attach to (and drag on) the spine. Organ restrictions usually respond well to Visceral therapy. I've also found that organ restrictions are commonly associated with energetic blocks and poor lymphatic flow.
  • I've occasionally seen food allergies causing spinal restrictions, pain, etc. Repeatedly adjusting when something else is causing the problem wastes the patient's time and money.

What To Do Instead
1. Don't assume that a physical problem only requires a physical treatment. Be willing to "not know." Explore further.

2. Get curious about what might be underlying the problem at the deeper levels. Look beyond the obvious and question your assumptions. We are truly energetic beings, and it makes sense that energetic disruptions are playing a big role in human suffering.

3. Explore therapies that incorporate some "energetic" awareness, like CranioSacral Therapy, Lymph Drainage Therapy, Visceral therapy, Emotion Code, Psych-K, Interactive Guided Imagery, Energy Medicine in general, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Rising Star Healing, Prema Birthing and shamanic healing. Acupuncture can be good, too, with a sensitive practitioner.

Over the years, my clinical experience has taught me that there is more to most health situations than meets the eye. I see it proven every day in my practice, as clients find the relief and comfort they haven't been able to get anywhere else.

The Bottom Line
Hopefully, these 3 common chiropractic mistakes are not an issue with the doctor you're working with. I encourage you to have a conversation with your chiropractor or other healthcare practitioner and make sure you feel comfortable with their response, before agreeing to the proposed treatment.

Bonus Tip:
Are you curious about the most common underlying causes of pain that doesn’t go away? Click the link for free instant access to my article series: All About Pain.

Additional Resources
For more information on chiropractic, including Motion Palpation, click here: What You Should Know About Chiropractic Analysis and Adjusting

Brought to you by Dr. Dane Roubos in Ashland, OR, dedicated to providing pain relief and comfort that ripples beyond your body and into the rest of your life.