Traditional Chiropractic vs. NUCCA

By Dr. Jason Slagel | August 29th, 2022

Many people are unaware that there are different types of chiropractors. It’s funny because when people say “Oh, I have been to a chiropractor before.” and I ask, “Oh, what kind of chiropractor?” a lot of the times I get a blank stare. Because of this, let me just delineate the two different types of chiropractors.  The first type most people are familiar with, and the other type, that I do, most people are not familiar with.

The type of chiropractic that most people are familiar with is called traditional chiropractic. This is the chiropractic that is old school, that everybody is kind of used to, which is the twisting, cracking, and popping type of chiropractic. The type of chiropractic that we do here at Structural Spinal Care is a type of structural chiropractic called NUCCA.  Traditional chiropractic, the type most people are familiar with, is trying to alleviate some pain and these chiropractors are concerned with mobility.  A traditional chiropractor will look for joints in your spine that feel stuck and then twist, crack, pop them to make the joints move more. They do manipulations. This means they take the joints through a range of motion quickly. That’s where the twisting, cracking, and popping comes from. Therefore, when they lay a patient down on the table, they will feel for what is not moving well and then crack it to make it move more. So, traditional chiropractors don’t do anything with alignment or positioning. That’s not on their radar. Rather, they look for things that aren’t moving well, and make them move better. A good analogy here would be with a lug nut. If you are replacing the tire in your car and you need to take the lug nuts out, it takes quite a bit of effort to get that lug nut started. The lug nut is in the correct position, it just takes a lot of effort to get it started.  However, once you get it started, it goes easily.  This is a good analogy for traditional chiropractor.

The difference between a traditional chiropractor and a structural chiropractor, like what we are here at Structural Spinal Care, is we are looking at correcting the positioning of the spine. If your spine gets shifted out of position from some type of a trauma, of course your spine isn’t going to be moving well. There will be joints that are not moving if your spine is not in the correct position. When we reposition the spine, it solves the issue with the motion and the joints as well.

I have a couple of good analogies for structural chiropractic, or NUCCA. The first one is if you look at your car tire alignment.  If your tires are out of alignment in your car, this can create motion issues.  The tires being out of alignment is a positional problem, but motion issues follow, like the car shaking, pulling to one side, and the steering wheel not staying straight the way that it should. If somebody has a structural shift in the spine, a traditional chiropractor will find things that aren’t moving well and think that mobility problem of those joints is the primary issue, when it is not. The mobility is most likely a secondary thing. If a person with a structural shift or a mal-positioning problem goes to a traditional chiropractor, these people will see temporary results. The traditional chiropractor will find some joints that are stuck and crack, twist and pop them.  This will bring mobility to the joints, but then the person will stand back up and their spine will still be in the wrong position.  Because of this, the spine will lock back down, and that joint will stop moving again. It is just a matter of time.  These temporary results with a traditional chiropractor are a tell-tale sign of somebody with a structural shift.

Another good example for structural chiropractic is thinking about a house. lf the foundation of your house shifts, that is a positioning problem, and it’s going to create motion problems throughout the house.  Your doors are not going to open and close well, windows aren’t going to open and close well, maybe even some cracks on the walls, some leaking of the roof, different things like that can happen once the position of the foundation is shifted. The solution to this is not to try to make the windows and doors move better, the solution is to put the foundation back in the correct positioning. After that we can get the windows and the doors to move better, but those motion issues can be resolved by fixing the positioning first.

NUCCA, the type of structural chiropractic that we do here at Structural Spinal Care, doesn’t involve any twisting, cracking, and popping because we are looking for positional change. Because of this, what we do is very slow and gentle. When we correct the spine, it feels like we are taking your pulse, that is how gentle it is. After we correct it, we take X rays to remeasure it and make sure the positioning went back to normal where it should be.  We also look at your whole posture pattern to see if that straightened up as well.  

The positional changes that we look for you can actually check for yourself.  What you can do is check if the legs are a different length, that is not a motion issue, it’s a positioning issue.  If the head is tilted when it feels like you are standing straight or if the shoulders are crooked when you are standing straight, these are all indications of a structural shift or a positioning problem.  If your head is tilted or your shoulders are crooked or your legs are uneven, those are positional problems.  For this reason, if you are going to a traditional chiropractor who deals with mobility problems, but your problems are a positioning problem then this is like using a hammer when you need a screwdriver. Both tools are good, but they are useful in their own specific context.  You just need to make sure the problem you have is being addressed with the right tool. If you have a positioning issue you do not go to a traditional chiropractor, if you have a positioning problem you go to a structural chiropractor. Go ahead and do a self-check, check those that you love, and see for yourself.  What kind of care is needed?

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