Written by Dr. Matthew Alvord, DC, DPhCS
There are many things in our daily life when we measure one place to see how something is in another place. For example, the dashboard in our car gives important feedback about what is happening under the hood. The monitor on our desk gives us details about the processing of the computer under the table. And a barometer on the ground can tell us what is going on in the sky.
This is true for the body as well. Eye exams can determine dozens of illnesses elsewhere in the body. Nail beds on our fingers can reveal various conditions happening anywhere else. And checking the pulse at our wrist can tell us information throughout the body; especially the heart in our chest.
People often ask us how we can tell what is going on in their spine by looking at their feet. We can take for granted all the familiar ways we check things during our day, but chiropractic exams follow the same logic as many of these other assessments in our life. It’s really just another measurement that was available to us all along but we didn’t know we could check for it.
When we check your feet as you lay on the chiropractic table, the obvious observation is your leg length. Since your legs are extensions of your spine, it will show how your spine is twisting in a specific way. But we can also pick up much more information, such as tiny changes in the muscles which give instant feedback about how the nervous system is functioning. We aren’t just simply checking if one leg is shorter than the other. We are also checking to see exactly HOW one leg is shorter than the other, which turns out to be the majority of the assessment.
If we look closer at the pulse at your wrist, most people are aware that they can measure the number of beats within a minute, but this assessment goes much deeper than that. Most people can check their heart rate, but it requires a true expert to discern HOW your heart is beating. As it turns out, there are many clinical ways to describe a pulse. Here are some examples of pulse characteristics:
Deep, floating, rapid, empty, full, slippery, choppy, long, short, overflowing, fine, minute, tight, wiry, hollow leathery, firm, soggy, weak, scattered, hidden, moving, hasty, knotted, intermittent, racing.
As you can see, there is lots going on behind the scene of just counting beats per minute. Anyone can lay someone on a table and get an idea about which of their legs is shorter than the other and by how much. But to know the extra details of all the observations that can be measured requires experience and expertise.
What can an experienced chiropractic assessment at your feet determine about what is going on at the other end of you? It can tell us everything we need to know about the location of your nerve interference as well as the direction, timing and nature of the specific force required to correct it.
Just like a keener observation of the pulse at your wrist can give specific details about your heart, a well-trained chiropractor can find out a lot about your spine and body by looking at your feet. Regardless of how you feel, we can tell you exactly when, where and how your nervous system has interference and know exactly what to do about it.
Any valid analysis should determine how you are regardless of how you feel, and leg length analysis is no different. We are able to find out what the problem is whether you have pain or not. We are even able to tell if the true problem is where your pain is, or often times in a quiet place in another area that may feel fine. For example, someone may complain about left low back pain but their real problem could very well be coming from the right side of their neck.
A chiropractor doesn’t find all the detailed pulse descriptions listed above because we are simply not trained for that. You also can’t expect any other kind doctor to find the specific interference to your nervous system like a well-trained chiropractor. The only way to know for sure is to have an experienced chiropractor check you for the interference no one else can find.