The Gonstead technique is commonly used by 58.5% of chiropractors across the United States according to the Job Analysis of Chiropractic published by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Although chiropractic providers today typically use about 15 of the 100 different techniques of chiropractic created since the profession began, the Gonstead technique remains a tried and true method that is taught and practiced across the globe. A provider that uses the Gonstead technique in their practice gives patients an individualized spinal analysis combining science, art, and philosophy to get to the source of the problem for the patient. As a chiropractic provider using the Gonstead technique, it is vital to use and analyze all information clinically to ensure the highest level of chiropractic.
Brief History of the Gonstead Technique
The Gonstead technique was developed by Clarence Selmer Gonstead (1898 – 1978), and was introduced to chiropractic when he was having leg and foot pains of his own which were resolved not by conventional medicine, but my chiropractic. This event prompted him to save enough money as an automotive engineer to pay for chiropractic school.
Here is a brief timeline of Dr. Gonstead’s chiropractic career:
1923: He graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic and Infirmary, and took over the practice of his mentor J.B. Olsen, then opened his own practice that same year in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin which still stands today. However, modern day development is trying to tear it down, and there are groups devoted to keeping it intact because of it’s architectural and historical significance to the chiropractic profession.
1961: Dr. Gonstead developed his technique over 51 years ago, and has been taught to thousands of students and professionals. After BJ Palmer passed away, the Palmer School of Chiropractic rewrote the curriculum. Within a few years the Gonstead technique was the heart of the technique department at the school. Many other schools followed suit, adding the Gonstead technique to their curriculums as well.
1964 & 1965: Gaining popularity for his technique and seminars, Dr. Gonstead opened a larger facility in 1964 and 1965 boasting 29,000 square feet in addition to a full-service motel adjacent to the new clinic.
1974: Dr. Gonstead sold both the clinic and Gonstead seminars, and today the clinic is owned by the non-profit C.S. Gonstead Chiropractic Foundation.
1978: Dr. Gonstead died at the age of 80. It is said, although he never advertised, he cared for several million people over the course of his career. He is credited with various innovations in the world of chiropractic.
Innovations by Dr. Gonstead:
- Consultations with the Electronic Development Lab to produce a more efficient nervoscope
- Refined the knee-chest table
- Refined the zenith Hylo table
- Chiropractic x-ray machine
- Split-screen x-ray film cassettes
- X-ray line marking system
- Adjusting the cervical spine in the chair position
These innovations are what made Dr. Gonstead and his technique timeless. As we know, many professional chiros still use his method today because of the science behind it, and its individualized nature. He had an unwavering commitment for the craft of chiropractic, and his healing is why so many chiropractic professionals use his method still today.
What is the Gonstead Technique?
At the root of the Gonstead technique lies the basic principle of biomechanical science, and the body’s foundation formed by the pelvic girdle. This technique changed the profession from a method that was upper cervical specific to one that was logical, used sound scientific data, and less crude of a technique therefore restoring chiropractic to its full-spine roots. The Gonstead technique involves a complete analysis of the spine to detect the presence of subluxations.
The 5 diagnostic criteria of the Gonstead technique:
- Visualization – examine carefully the posture and movement to identify the patient issues.
- Instrumentation – use a nervoscope to detect uneven distributions of heat along the spine indicating any nerve pressure and inflammation. It should be guided down the full length of the spine.
- Static Palpation – feel down the spine with the patient in a stationare (static) position. Look for any presence of swelling, abnormal texture, tightness in the muscles & tissues of the back, and tenderness.
- Motion Palpation – feel down the spine while having the patient move and bend at different angles. This will help you decipher how difficult or easy each area of the spine moves in various directions.
- X-Ray Analysis – this allows you the ability to visually evaluate posture, disc integrity, and vertebral misalignments. These are taken in the weight bearing standing position to give a full, accurate examination of the findings. Essentially, visualize the entire structure of the spine.
All of these criteria along with the patient symptoms are used to determine the exact spot that needs adjusting. When all of the criteria work together, it is more likely that the patient will receive a clear, individualized adjustment. Many chiropractors believe the greater the specificity, the greater change there is in the patient’s health. Dr. Gonstead believed that three adjustments on the wrong vertebral segment could cause a Subluxation, so the specific nature of this technique can potentially improve success rates of patient healing. This technique goes far beyond what many consider an assessment of the spine with the in depth analysis that it is famous for.
What’s the Difference Between Gonstead & Other Techniques?
A chiropractor using the Gonstead technique uses the diagnostic information we laid out above to recognize and rectify misalignments. Unlike other techniques, Gonstead chiropractors avoid twisting the spine, but instead use precise movements to adjust the vertebrae. Another main difference that is worth noting is that neck adjustments are performed in the seated position, taking care when positioning the patient to provide the most painless and accurate adjustments. Additionally, other techniques attempt to make corrections by moving the joints back and forth from left to right until the spine is in proper alignment. In the Gonstead technique, it is understood that the most efficient method of treatment is to move the bones forward.
The biggest difference that many chiropractors today understand is that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to each patient that steps into your office. The Gonstead technique addresses any and all possible directions in which the spine can misalign causing irritation to the nerve. Dr. Gonstead was quoted as saying “The principles of the Gonstead method are the simple principles of chiropractic put to work; how to understand what causes nerve pressure, how to find it on the patient, how to achieve a corrective setting of the offending vertebra, and how to know when the chiropractor’s job is done, nature begins.”
Gonstead Chiropractor Protocol
As a chiropractic provider, if you are interested in the Gonstead technique, it is important to know basic protocol, as well as any tools that may be helpful in your journey to being a Gonstead chiropractor.
Adjustment procedures should involve the following procedures & equipment:
- Examination of the spine with skin exposed (using a gown for female patients).
- Nervoscope analysis
- Static & Motion palpating analysis
- Adjusting equipment including:
- Cervical Chair
- Pelvic Bench
- Hy-Lo or Slot Table
- Knee Chest Table
Along with the procedures and equipment used since Gonstead’s time, new developments are made as the years pass in the world of chiropractic medicine that allow for the implementation of the new. The Gonstead Clinical Studies Society has developed the Pelvic Rotation Calculator App which can be used to “calculate true measurements and rotation amounts using measurements taken from the radiograph and the x-ray positioning environment.”
The Gonstead Technique
Dr. Gonstead’s technique of specific analysis and correction of vertebral misalignments is unparalleled by any other and truly timeless. He had an unwavering commitment for the craft of chiropractic, and his ability to heal each patient individually is why so many chiropractic professionals use his method still today remaining a popular method amongst professionals. Not to mention that the scientific, proven, and tailored nature of the technique is extremely appealing to patients looking for a chiropractor.
If you would like to learn more about the Gonstead technique, check out our seminars page to see where there is a Gonstead seminar coming up near you.
Dr. Gonstead’s clinic of Chiropractic is falling apart, and you can learn more about how you can help preserve it through the Gonstead Preservation Group.