Chiropractic: The Keck System (1963)

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Chapter 11:
Chiropractic “Technique Wars”
The Keck System

Dr. W. Frederick Keck, the “father” of the system, is not interested in any motive, but that of benefiting the profession and the art of Chiropractic. We, the committee, after two years of attendance and experimentation, at his lectures, demonstrations and clinical sessions recommend, unreservedly, Dr. Keck’s manuscript to the practitioner’s diligent and careful scrutiny and study, for his patients’ and his own benefit [1].

Keck, a chiropractor, begins his discussion of the “Keck System” with this preface:

For the past 10 years I have lectured to thousands of doctors and students gratis. This treatise is the result of their demands. Therefore, I write again, not in academic dogma, but rather as one who records clinical observation.

It requires courage to do what a man rightfully should do despite personal consequences and organized resistance [1].

Thus, free from “academic dogma,” another practitioner empirically establishes one more “superior” method of treatment, and with the blessings and endorsements of chiropractic authorities. Representing “10 years” of lecturing and “clinical observation,” the treatise on the Keck System, consisting of less than 25 pages reprinted from articles by Dr. Keck that had appeared in the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, sells for $10.00 to the practicing chiropractor.

The Keck System, to begin with (with the practitioner standing behind the patient), observes the position of the patient’s head while the patient stands erect. The tilt of the patient’s skull reveals the direction and degree of displacement of the atlas (the topmost vertebra, which supports the skull). The patient is then placed supine (on his back) so that the practitioner can palpate the base of the skull for “taut fibers,” after which the patient is then turned over to the face-down position so that the position of the feet, hanging over the end of the table, can be observed. If the toes point normally (according to a chart), the patient is classified as Somato Type A. This is supposed to indicate a sound, healthy body and one that will respond readily to chiropractic adjustments.

If the toes point out (everted type), the patient is a Somato Type B who, if not already mentally ill, goes “either to the heights of ecstasy or the depths of despair.” This position of the feet, indicating tension and psychic instability, also indicates that the patient, under chiropractic care, can “lead a reasonably normal life.”

If the patient’s toes point straight ahead, he is classified as Somato Type C, or the “straight type.” This means that the individual is more or less at the mercy of his environment and has subnormal resistance and recuperative powers. “On the average, it takes this type of case longer to get well than the normal or everted type. Their body vitality is low and they have more off days than good days.” [1]

Those poor souls whose toes point in (inverted type) are indeed in bad shape, for they are classified as Somato Type D. “Persons of this type are never really well; they are chronically sick. Recuperation is very slow and their vital processes are subnormal. They have many ailments which they have accepted or learned to tolerate. . . . Adjustments can and do prevent them from progressing into some more serious ailment. As a rule they constitute the longer range cases and require regular adjustments over a period of time. Their span of life is not too long, except under ideal circumstances. At age fifty to sixty, these cases are poor risks and rarely survive surgery or severe disease syndromes,” says Dr. Keck [1]

This method finishes its analysis by palpating the tendon at the heel (Achilles tendon) so that selection of the thinnest tendon will indicate the side of the body undergoing a chronic “structural pull.”

“If the thicker Achilles tendon is more tender, this is indicative of a relatively acute condition,” advises the Keck System.

The tautness or the tenderness is then traced over certain structures on one side of the body (undergoing a “structural pull”) all the way from the heel to the occiput (base of the skull) where a certain direction of displacement of the atlas is supposedly exerting deleterious effects.

Unlike some of the other chiropractic techniques I have discussed (the sacro-occipital method, for example, also palpates taut fibers at the base of the skull, along with careful measurement of leg length, as diagnostic criteria), the Keck System maintains that “short legs are of little or no importance.” This system does contend, however, that “most people have one side of their body which is more subject to disease than the other.”

Dr. Keck states that: “It has been my observation that organs located on the side of the structural pull are the ones that are primarily affected in any syndrome.” Thus, by adjusting the atlas according to the indications of the Keck analysis, the structural pull is relieved on one side, nerve interference released, and disease is cured or prevented. By observing the position of the feet and reexamining tissues on the side of the “structural pull” after each treatment, the practitioner is able to determine the “efficiency” of the adjustment. Alleged displacement and distortion of the atlas and axis, while supposedly causing the structural pull and nerve interference on one side of the body, also causes any one of a number of diseases, depending upon the direction of the atlas “slip.” In cases of anginal pain, for example, if the atlas is subluxated left and anterior (forward), the patient has “true angina”; if the atlas is subluxated in the opposite direction, the patient has “pseudo angina.”

A typical prognosis, given after a Keck analysis, having a most distinct psychological advantage when you tell a patient of his potential weakness,” is given as follows:

Patient, male, fifty years of age, somatotype A; right posterior atlas-major; left anterior atlas-adaptive major. These potentialities were told to the patient: “You have a fairly normal bowel tract. However, your bowels could be better. You are not susceptible to appendix, liver, gall bladder, duodenal or colon trouble except under extremes. On developing a cold you will always have a throat involvement-mild to severe infectious types. If your body vitality is low, the cardiac and gastric nerves may become involved with a severe cold. You will, rarely if ever, have head cold. This will occur only on extreme fatigue. We tell you these potentialities as a guide to your future life.” [2]

It would not take more than a high school psychology student to see the potential danger of informing a suggestible, neurotic, or hypochondriacal individual of his “potential weaknesses” on the basis of such poor clinical findings, much less inform a nervous and fearful individual, classed as Somato Type D (because his toes point in), that his span of life will not likely be too long and that between the ages of fifty to sixty he will be a poor surgical risk, rarely surviving surgery or severe disease syndromes. No doubt such indoctrination does create many lifelong chiropractic patients.

Keck maintains:

There is no question at this particular stage in the development of chiropractic, that we have definitely established it to be the most logical and efficient health science in the world today.

In closing, the following should be emphasized: Those chiropractors who are applying this work agree that the Keck Method is the most comprehensive, analytical approach in chiropractic today. It is basically sound and is consistently being proved clinically [1].

The Keck System also maintains that the cause of all low back conditions (as well as disease) is found in occipito-atlanto-axial subluxations (O.A.A.). “In my office,” writes Dr. Keck, “all low back syndromes are given OAA release only. This results in quicker and more permanent recoveries.” This statement implies, of course, that the Keck System treats all back conditions not by working on the back itself but by adjusting “occipital-atlanto-axial subluxations.”

Many chiropractors who have aggravated certain types of back conditions by unnecessary and excessive manipulation have attributed unwarranted value to forms of treatment that are not applied directly upon the disturbed area, simply because they got better results by leaving the injured tissues alone, thus allowing the back to recover through rest alone.

“What I am trying to convey,” said Dr. Keck in the January 1963 issue of the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, “is that chiropractic is now a proven method of removing the potential of most of the ailments of humans by normalizing the physiological processes and aborting the development or progress of pathology. We have the best in preventive measures…. There is not a patient among the many thousands who visited my office and the offices of many of my colleagues during the past few years, who did not have a subluxation in the OAA area. . . . No OAA involvement, no sick patient.”

1. Keck W. A method of chiropractic analysis and procedure (the Keck System). Reprints from the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, 1958.
2. Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, May, 1956.

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