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Relevant "Dr. Cliff Notes" Analogies

Definition of "Chiropractic"

What does the word “Chiropractic” mean anyway? Interestingly, much medical terminology can be broken down into Latin root words…

chiro practic
hands practice of


So, chiropractic = the practice of hands.



Pain vs. Function

Here is the analogy that explains why pain often comes unexpectedly and why it’s important to fully rehabilitate injuries functionally not just symptomatically. Here we graph symptoms and function. “0” is optimal and “10” is very poor for both categories.

0   10   0   10

Pain / Symptoms   Functional Considerations

You would think you could directly overlay these figures, but many years of clinical experience have shown us they don’t directly overlay. Symptoms don’t come into the equation until about a "3" on the functional scale. You can have significant dysfunction at, say, a 2 or 1 that is asymptomatic. This explains why pain often comes unexpectedly. It wasn’t “leaning over to pick the piece of paper up off the ground” that caused your low back pain. It was a culmination of events occurring over a long period of time that had you pushed to the functional threshold and made you finally manifest symptomatically.



The Importance of the “Specific Adjustment”

Not all doctors are created equal. The proficiency of the practitioner you choose dramatically impacts the effectiveness of the care rendered.

You want to choose a doctor who is meticulous, takes the appropriate time, and does a thorough examination to isolate your dysfunction. Clear intent and diligence bring an “intuitiveness” in consistently isolating your involvement.

I often say to patients, "The gift in manipulation is not the adjustment itself." Anyone can make a joint pop. The gift lies in the ability to accurately interpret function, isolate the involvement, and make specific correction through the adjustment.

At Align, we strive to emulate these qualities and render what we have coined “mechanically correct” care.



Certainly scar tissue effects motion

When injuries cause tissue damage or tears, scar tissue is laid down by the body to heal the injury. Scar tissue does not have the same elasticity as normal tissue and so subsequent loss of motion or movement manifests at the joint or muscle involved. (See ISD.) This has great impact on how we function and therefore feel.This is why chiropractic medicine is so imperative during the healing process from an injury. Manipulation of a joint improves its ability to move through a full range of motion (ROM). It has been shown in studies that a joint that has full ROM is less likely to have pain than a joint without full ROM. So, by isolating the focal restriction in motion patterning and delivering care designed to specifically improve intersegmental ROM, we improve functional biometrics and “optimize the mechanical integrity of the healing process.” This will help dramatically speed up the alleviation of pain and symptoms and importantly, decreases the propensity for symptoms to return. As we age, if we manage injuries well and maintain optimal flexibility and ROM, we have better structural health.

Manipulation is all about optimizing functional biomechanics.



ISD: Intersegmental Dysfunction

Intersegmental Dysfunction is a property of function in the spine. There are many vertebrae in the human spine: 7 cervical or neck, 12 thoracic or mid back, and 5 lumbar or low back. When we move into a range of motion, the joints between these vertebrae, called “facets,” work as a team, each contributing similar amounts of “intersegmental motion” to accomplish an overall movement.

Injuries often manifest in a very focal manner and lay down scar tissue, resulting in what is called “intersegmental dysfunction.” Focal levels effected by scar tissue end up not moving as well and not contributing workload to overall function, resulting in altered mechanics and dysfunction. If left untreated, this area of non-optimal function is prone to develop into symptoms and pain.

The skilled chiropractic practitioner is able, through physical examination, to interpret small disturbances in motion patterning thereby isolating the dysfunction causing your symptoms. Very specific care (the adjustment) is then administered, improving your intersegmental motion patterning, optimizing the “functional integrity of the healing process” and minimizing propensity for future recurrences.




Look at the musculo-skeletal system and how it functions. In order to be comprehensive in the treatment of injury, it is essential that manipulation be included as part of the options in the case management. You can’t ignore joint function and the influence manipulation has on it. Joints are the foundation of our ability to move. Balancing motion patterning optimizes the mechanical integrity of the healing process.

The better you heal from structural injury, biomechanically speaking, the better your functional recovery, and therefore, you add years to your life and life to your years.




“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

If we catch scoliosis developing at 12 years old, it is a much better situation than address it when the patient is 16 years old. Recognize problems early and treat preventatively to avoid long term problems.



Are you a good candidate?

Tailoring care for each individual, which starts by establishing whether of not they are a good candidate for your care, is important in facilitating optimal outcomes. Not all patents that present have conditions that are best treated with your tools. If you are not a good chiropractic candidate, this is recognized and you will be referred to the appropriate practitioner.

A revered colleague taught me years ago, “Just because you are holding a hammer doesn’t mean that everything is a nail.”

The surgeons with the best statistical outcomes are those who know how to properly pick their surgical candidates.

At Align, out intent is to facilitate optimal outcomes. We would like to see your outcome met with conservative, non-invasive and cost effective care rendered here. But, if you are not a good candidate and are going to be served better by a different discipline, we refer accordingly.



  • The human body is a machine. Yes, a miraculous, divinely inspired, healing machine. But, still a machine and is subject to natural law. So, as is the case with any machine, if you take care of it, it will last longer.
  • “Recognize your strengths. But also recognize your weaknesses. Educate yourself and have knowledge of these traits in the other categories of physical medicine practitioners. Then channel your patient to the care that will best empower them in resolving their condition.”
  • As chiropractic physicians, we really only treat a few things in the spine (facets, SI joints, rib attachments, discs), but 90% of people’s spine problems will incorporate at least one of these structures.
  • 80% of people will experience back pain some time in their life.
  • You only get one body. Take care of it.