The Gonstead Method


Who is Dr. Gonstead?

Clarence S. Gonstead was working in the engineering trade when in his early twenties he got rheumatoid arthritis that was so severe, he could not get out of bed. After trying many different medical approaches to help treat this condition with no success, he arranged to see a chiropractor named Dr. Olson who adjusted Gonstead every four to six hours, for three days. Soon after, Gonstead was able to crawl on the floor, and eventually the continuous chiropractic care gave Gonstead his life back which inspired him to change career paths and become a Chiropractor. This part of Gonstead’s life is very important in the history of the development of the technique because Gonstead’s background in engineering allowed him to look at human spines with a unique point of view: he saw them as biomechanical and functional structures. With this mind set, he continued his education at Lincoln Chiropractic College in Indiana where he dissected, studied, photographed and reconstructed cadaver spines. His theory and methodology are based on all these years of education and experience with patients in his office.

When Gonstead began practicing in 1923, he was one of the first chiropractors to open a clinic in Wisconsin since at that time, most chiropractors had home offices. He was also one of the first Doctors to have an X-ray machine. He worked late hours, seven days of the week and his practice grew quickly. Individuals from all over were coming to see him, including other chiropractors. He became “the chiropractor’s chiropractor… and patients would wait for as long as four hours to see him” writes Dr. Hart, a student of Gonstead’s, in a book compiling Gonstead’s life work. In 1946, Dr. Tom Askland and Dr. Chris Oldenberg insisted that Gonstead conduct a seminar explaining his method. With the growth of clinic and the seminars taking place, Gonstead was able to build one of the largest chiropractic clinics in the world (19,000 square feet) that seated 106 patients in the waiting area. He also built an Inn adjacent to his clinic to accommodate his patients from around the country and the world, as well as the many doctors who came to learn from him at the seminars.

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The analysis


When there is a change (i.e a subluxation) in one area of the spine, it can generate biomechanical and neurophysiological changes in other areas of the spine. Therefore it is very important to look at the whole spine and not focus only on the areas of complaint. Gonstead was meticulous about finding the correct subluxation (as opposed to the compensation) in the spine. There are many factors taken into consideration when trying to decide which vertebra to adjust. Gonstead used the nervoscope, which detects heat differential on each side of each vertebral level. Along with this instrument, Gonstead used visualization, motion palpation, static palpation and the patient history to determine where the subluxation lies. Then, he would take full spine X-rays to confirm his findings on the film thus completing a full chiropractic analysis on every patient.

The adjustment


After a complete analysis, the Gonstead chiropractor is ready to deliver any necessary adjustments. The focus of the Gonstead adjustment is to be as specific, precise and accurate as possible, addressing only the problem areas. Great care is taken to ensure a bio-mechanically correct position and precise thrust to provide the most accurate and painless adjustment possible. It is the goal of your Gonstead doctor to restore and maintain optimal health by locating and correcting any interference to the nervous system caused by vertebral subluxation.