Chiropractic: Electrotactic Theory (1963)

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Chapter 11:
Chiropractic “Technique Wars” (Continued)
Electrotactic Theory of Chiropractic

D.D. Palmer’s osseous subluxation with neural disturbance was the original foundation. Within a short period, Willard Carver’s postural full-spine rotatory scolioses ideas took hold of segments of the profession. All manipulative techniques since then have been developments of either the Palmer or Carver methods.

From Palmer evolved Meric, B.J. Palmer’s HIO Specific, Spear’s Loban, Steinbach, Gillett, Keck, Wursing, Mears, Grostic and others who developed theory, analyses, and manipulations for one or more vertebral subluxations.

From the original Carver procedures evolved more complex methods. The better known are Hurley’s Aquarian Age Healing (sacrum), Logan’s Basic Technique (sacrum), Fred Carver’s Sacral work, DeJarnette’s Sacro-Occipital Technique (sacrum-pelvis to occiput), Ashton’s Myobasal Technique (ischial ramus), Oleshey’s Congenital Deformity Corrective Technique (sacrum) and Illi. . . .

With the existence of varied adjustive and reflex theories and methods, the time was now ripe for someone to appear upon the chiropractic scene with a verifiable and scientific hypothesis for the solution of the apparent contradictions and half-truths, and evolve a practical therapeutic method. This has now been accomplished by Seymour Liebowitz, of Passaic, N.J. The Chiropractic of Palmer and Carver will give way to a more valid and efficient theory and practice. What is required is honesty and intelligence to make this necessary professional transition [1].

Thus, with this brief history of chiropractic treatment methods, several of which I have already discussed, another chiropractic “authority” introduces a new and revolutionary chiropractic treatment that would replace every other existing chiropractic method — even the Carver approach which, as one chiropractic authority stated recently, “is the foundation of whatever is scientific in chiropractic today.” While the “Electrotactic Theory of Chiropractic” is probably no more correct than its predecessors, it does, like all the others, completely ignore limited and scientific treatment of the spinal joints per se. In fact, it quite typically offers a method of “removing nerve interferences” in the treatment or prevention of disease. As a form of “reflex therapy,” similar to the “new hypothesis” discussed earlier, it designates treatment sites at certain points along the skin near the spine, corresponding to diseased areas which, in turn, are reflected in disturbances in the area of the atlas or pelvis, or both. Maintaining that these disturbances also cause a “short leg” in the supine or prone position, this system attempts to construct a “verifiable and scientific hypothesis” around the “contradictions and half-truths” found in a variety of chiropractic treatment methods. In addition, it maintains that “a disturbance or change in any organ is always reflected physiologically or pathologically in the liver and is detectable.” Use of electrotactic reflex therapy will not only reveal the “key” organ responsible for a chain of symptoms, but such therapy directed to that organ will also bring into action “such powerful components as the hypothalamus, adrenal cortex, aortic plexus, the heart and portions of the digestive tract and reproductive system.”

“We can no longer hide the fact that many patients do not respond to the multiple therapies existent today in chiropractic,” states an advocate of this method. “It is no wonder that so many in our profession seek to interject into their practices any ‘help’ they may obtain with metaphysics and modalities. Sensing the shortcomings in present theory and practice, they look outside of our body of knowledge for adjunctive procedures.” [1]

It is not necessary for the reader to attempt to understand some of the contentions described in this chapter since, obviously, it would be quite impossible to describe them logically. A critical discussion of any one of these methods could be carried to great lengths and still fail to arrive at conclusions similar to those who formulate such theories. Our only purpose in providing examples of several such theories is to demonstrate the theoretical nature of many chiropractic methods of treating disease, as opposed to joint manipulation in its proper perspective. While the use of joint manipulation progressively develops according to unchanging scientific principles, the chiropractic treatment of disease changes according to the interpretation of the individual.

Chiropractic theorists, in referring to the medical use of manipulation in Germany, for example, state with an air of superiority:

German medicine is starting to take over chiropractic, in its Palmer form. By the time medicine absorbs old, orthodox, manipulative subluxation chiropractic, it will have become outmoded and obsolete among the chiropractors themselves. Leaving medicine and Paleozoic methods, chiropractic will employ the procedures of its scientific future — electrotactic reflex application. [1]

According to the above writer, the chiropractic “stolen” from chiropractors by the German physician is worth little and is subject to radical change. Actually, however, the manipulative procedures recognized by medical science are applied to certain conditions under specific indications. A subluxated vertebra, for example, is a real and acutely painful entity, the treatment of which, often requiring manipulation, is not subject to radical change. Specific movements of joints, in conditions requiring such treatment, are likely to be performed in a similar and basic manner conforming to the laws of anatomy and physiology. Methods of treating the joints have been passed down from antiquity and have changed but little, since the articulations of joints have remained quite the same. The German physicians claim to be adopting an old form of medical treatment that has existed in Germany for centuries.

Although many present-day methods of chiropractic manipulation are similar to ancient methods of bonesetting, which have much value in the treatment of joint conditions, it is interesting to note that the chiropractor’s efforts to treat disease are leading him away from basically sound methods and reasons for joint manipulation to treatment methods unrelated to joint disturbances. In the meantime, medical science continues to make greater use of manipulative procedures that have changed but little from the most remote times.

As I have already noted, many chiropractic theories and techniques have completely abandoned manipulation of the spine in exchange for treatment that is applied upon other areas of the body for the purpose of “normalizing the nervous system.” Ironically enough, it seems that the chiropractor has failed to recognize the value of manipulation in actual joint conditions, which is the part of chiropractic “being absorbed by the medical profession.” Probably, the failure of the chiropractor to specialize and seek reciprocity with medical practice leads him to the shattering realization that the only thing original in chiropractic is its creed, which is apparently so vague as to support over 150 theories at once!

The promoter of the “Electrotactic Theory of Chiropractic” states:

Those who have come forth with new hypotheses and techniques take for granted that which has been previously established and accepted and add their new concepts to the old, either superimposed on the old or standing side-by-side. Electrotactic reflex application does not add; it substitutes new theory and method for old. . . . Under this approach, the results in problem cases are better than the best in current chiropractic; for the usual case it is superior. . . . It is infallible as to pin-pointing the patient’s sickness and therefore an accurate and amazing method of diagnosis. It allows the “erasure” of incorrect previous therapy . . . there is also allowance for accurate check on the indication or contraindication for nutritional supplements and drugs. . . The theory and application of electrotactics cannot be learned in two or four easy lessons. It is not a few thrusts on vertebrae or a haphazard contact point. Its theory and application are not easy. Clinical experience and a good background are prerequisites for understanding this work [1].

Thus, due to the lack of any real scientific material in the literature of chiropractic, another sensational theory finds its way into the confused and often gullible mind of the chiropractor who hardly knows which course to take next.


1. Schlenoff M. Electrotactic theory of chiropractic: The quiet revolution in theory and method. Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, January, 1959.

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