Chiropractic: The Parker System (1963)

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Chapter 11:
Chiropractic “Technique Wars”
The Parker System

One of the most popular methods of treatment used by a good many chiropractors today is a procedure known as “Parker’s System,” whereby the full spine is brought under examination and treatment. The patient is told that a full-spine X-ray examination is necessary to locate the cause of his trouble, regardless of what the presenting symptoms might be. The X-ray film is then marked in detail — in a manner quite similar to the Logan Method — to show displacements of individual vertebrae. In a procedure that would appear very much to be calculated quackery, each vertebra is measured in millimeters in order to determine the amount of “displacement.” The total number of “millimeters of displacement” are then added up to arrive at the number of “adjustments” needed to correct the “cause” of the patient’s trouble. The number may vary from a good many to a great many. If the patient wishes to “get well” he is advised to take the complete course of recommended treatments, some doctors asking for their fees in advance in order to “insure the cooperation of the patient.” In being advised that a minimum number of treatments will be necessary to correct his condition, the patient is often informed that payment in advance will entitle him to a discount in the total cost. Although few chiropractors will guarantee a cure, the patient might be told that chiropractic treatment in cases of his type has been highly successful — according to figures compiled by chiropractic research organizations. “However, no form of treatment can cure them all.”

Chiropractors who employ such systems argue that it is necessary to keep the patient coming back for long periods of time for the treatment to be effective. The longer the displacements have been present, for example, the longer the course of treatment. Some rationalize that it is to the patient’s advantage to be “persuaded” into taking a long course of treatments, since the patient must be “sold” on the merits of chiropractic. It follows, of course, that the longer the patient stays under the chiropractor’s care the better chance the chiropractor has of taking credit for the patient’s eventual recovery. Since most people eventually recover from their illnesses, a fair percentage of success is guaranteed. Under such methods of holding a patient long enough to permit a course of natural recovery, however, a smaller number are deprived of the proper treatment until it is too late to effectively begin the correct treatment.

Needless to say, the elaborate measurement of a patient’s X-ray film depends primarily upon normal mechanical deviations, slight asymmetry of bone structure, and, in some cases, the existence of normal spinal curvatures-that is to say, curvatures that have adapted themselves into the individual frame. The marking, of course, is designed primarily to detect “misplaced vertebrae.” Notwithstanding, many people are measured and treated for curvatures that cannot be corrected. Gray’s Anatomy, for example, now considers a slight lateral curvature of the spine to be quite normal:

The vertebral column has also a slight lateral curvature, the convexity of which is directed toward the right side. This may be produced by muscular action, most persons using the right arm in preference to the left, especially in making long-continued efforts, when the body is curved to the right side. In support of this explanation it has been found that in one or two individuals who were left-handed, the convexity was to the left side. By others this curvature is regarded as being produced by the aortic arch and upper part of the descending thoracic aorta — a viewpoint supported by the fact that in cases where viscera are transposed and the aorta is on the right side, the convexity of the curve is directed to the left side [1].

No doubt, many people have been “treated” for such curvatures and left with the impression that manipulation had completely straightened out their spine (as if it were possible to displace the aorta). Changes in the curvature of the spine can be made to appear to have occurred by X-raying the spine while it is rotated on its vertical axis. There are probably some types of spinal curvature — when slight — that might be considered essential to the mechanical make-up of the individual. Any attempt to correct these in the adult could cause a disturbance in body mechanics. The awe-inspiring sight of an X-rayed spine, and the normal condition of the spine of anyone, can provide an unethical spinal manipulator with an endless supply of business.

In measuring the spine to determine the number and degree of misplaced vertebrae, chiropractors very often measure degrees of permanent rotation that exist in every structural curvature that will defy treatment. In fact, quite often the amount of rotation of vertebrae in a curvature is in direct proportion to the degree of incorrectability — yet, it is this rotation that is measured in curved spines.

Most often, slight displacements and strains of vertebral joints are not visible on X-ray at all. One might measure a perfectly normal pair of vertebrae and find “measured indications” of displacement. A joint that is completely dislocated would, of course, be easy to see. Any measured and palpated signs of slight displacement might be positive signs when confirmed by pain or loss of mobility in that area. Loss of mobility alone might indicate the existence of adhesions or some other disturbance that might benefit from manipulation. One may rest assured, however, that the frequent “displacements with nerve pressure” so commonly discovered by many chiropractors do not, in fact, exist at all. When they do occur, they are usually quite evident in the form of pain and other physical or neurological disturbances.

Some chiropractors advertise that spinal displacements, capable of causing serious organic disease, may occur without any symptoms whatsoever (in the back). This leaves few people with an excuse that they do not need to “See a chiropractor.”

It goes without saying, that after one has had his spine measured and treated under the Parker System, subsequent X-ray examination will reveal the same old “displacements” (subluxations) and distortions, as observed by Logan after ten years of chiropractic practice.

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