What a Walk on the Golden Gate Bridge Taught Me About Structure – Chiropractor in Wellington


Last week I was out of the office for a few days to go to San Francisco for a wedding. I’ve been to San Francisco a few times for weekend business trips, but this was my first trip for leisure. Obviously any trip to San Francisco has to include the vaunted views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Beyond great scenery, the bridge is really a marvelous feat of engineering. In my office, I often tell people that Structural Chiropractic through the NUCCA procedure takes an engineer’s view of the spine. As a result, I saw some parallels between what I know about Structural Chiropractic and what I observed walking on the bridge.

1. Suspension Bridges and Spines were built to move – Check out a video of the bridge movement here

California and earthquakes always go together. In order to combat that, engineers had to build structures and buildings with the ability to move. You may not see it from a far, but the bridge has the ability to sway and oscillate, which is key to making sure that an earthquake doesn’t decimate a ridgid structure.

The spine is divided into multiple segments for that same reason. Movement of the spine allows for a dynamic and large range of flexibility so that we can move lots of different ways.When the spine stops moving, then it begins to become more ridgid which opens it up to greater risk of damage when come into contact with a force.

That’s one of the reasons why sedentary people might be at higher risk of injury if they tackle an activity too soon without appropriate progression.


2. Even Perfectly Built Structures are Not Immune to Mother Nature and Father Time – Link

The Golden Gate bridge was built with a phenomenal design. Even when every cable is connected correctly and every bolt placed tightly, the bridge is slowly degenerating. While I was walking across the bridge, I noticed some bits of rust building up on parts of the bridge. It’s not going to happen any time soon, but there will be a time when this bridge will be more likely to break down from it’s constant barrage of cars and weather assaulting the bridge on a daily basis.

Bridge Erosion


Nothing is immune to time and nature. Even a spine with perfect structure will eventually show signs of degeneration and evidence of arthritic wear.

I say this because a lot of people in their 60’s and 70’s ask why their spine shows smaller discs or signs of arthritis, and I usually have to tell them because they lived long enough to have it happen. Arthritis and disc degeneration is not necessarily a big deal to worry about. Almost everyone will have it as they get older.

Just like a bridge, signs of breakdown/wear and tear are only a big deal if it’s happening before you expect it, or before it’s supposed to.

Osteoarthritis in your 30’s = problem

Osteoarthritis in your 70’s = Common

3. All great structures need routine basic maintenance; even when there’s no problem to speak of – link to maintenance projects

All mechanical structures require some level of maintenance. Your car needs oil changes, houses need painting and repairs, and bridges get painted. These things happen even if they’re not affecting the function of the structure at hand.

The joints of the body, particularly of the spine do a tremendous amount of work on a day-to-day basis. Your spine has to fight and resist gravity just from the act of sitting and standing. While your body needs to resist gravity daily for neurological health (more on that in another post), gravity is a constant force that can wear you down.

Chiropractors often get criticism for making care recommendations for people that are no longer in pain. I’ll be honest when I say that some chiropractors probably see people excessively for maintenance purposes. However, I’m not afraid to say that most people can and should maintain the health of their spine throughout their life through.


Who Benefits the Most from Maintenance?

There’s a few types of people that truly do benefit more from maitenance type of care. In our office, we call that type of care Protection Care. It’s low level of care that helps to protect their investment. For most people, it’s between once a month or 2 months to provide self-care recommendations to help their bodies continue to get stronger.

People that usually benefit the most:

  1. High level athletes – athletes that train at high levels are exposed to the highest amount of joint stresses. During the peak seasons of their sports, I may see these athletes at a higher frequency for maintenance. This is especially true for sports with high contact like football and mixed martial arts.
  2. Patients with ligament damage like whiplash or disc injury – ligament damage is a tough problem for healing. They get less blood flow and oxygenation from muscles, and they often never reform to their original standard. If you’ve ever had a sprained ankle that keeps turning, you probably know this feeling.
  3. Chronic Pain Patients – Patients with chronic pain from things like Fibromyalgia don’t often see a full cure. While we can help make life a lot better in most cases, it usually means we have to keep a closer eye on these patients.

While maintenance will not protect you completely from the effects of father time and mother nature, it can help ensure that you get there with a little bit more grace.

Atlas Correction vs. Traditional Manipulation

Atlas Correction vs. Traditional Manipulation

This is a post that may catch some flack, so I want to preface it first with my intentions.

1. This is a question that my patients are frequently asked when they want to refer a family or friend, so first and foremost this is a guide for them.

2. I’m openly declaring my biases.  I practice using Atlas Corrections as my primary intervention so it’s inescapable that I have some favoritism. However, I’m making a concerted effort to keep this strictly factual.

3. I’m not making any claims of superiority or inferiority. Different interventions for different goals, and each intervention will appeal to different people.

Now that that’s been established, let’s talk about these distinct procedures.

Traditional Manipulation

Spinal ManipulationWhat people have come to associate with spinal manipulation is known in the academic and professional world as a “high-velocity, low amplitude” spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation can be performed on any of the spinal joints from the head all the way down to the pelvis and sacrum. It is what people associate with the “twisting, cracking, and popping” form of chiropractic.

Spinal manipulation has been used as a healing art that dates back thousands of years. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was even said to have used manipulation to treat his patients. It also has strong roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine and other eastern practices where they call it “bone setting”.

A lot has changed in thousands of years. What was once a fringe therapy is now practiced by thousands of practitioners, which include chiropractors, physical therapists, and osteopathic physicians.

These manipulations are used to increase joint range of motion, reduce pain input into the brain, decrease spasm, and alter the way the brain uses sensory information. It’s not as important to see the alignment and structural position of the joint as it is to know that the joint is moving.

Spinal manipulation has had a long history, but we are now starting to understand the wide ranging benefits on the neuromusculoskeletal system. We also know that despite some negative press, it has an unbelieveably strong record of safety in the right hands. Most over the counter medications would be envious of the safety track record of spinal manipulation.

Atlas Corrections

Atlas Corrections are an intervention used by chiropractors that focus on the the alignment of the head and neck. These chiropractors will usually classify themselves as an Upper Cervical Chiropractor.

What makes this type of procedure unique is that it focuses exclusively on the top portion of the spine. What also makes it unique is the fact that this procedure is usually very gentle and precise in nature, as there is almost no discernible pressure, and none of the “cracking” associated with a traditional manipulation.

As a matter of fact, when most people get an atlas correction done, they usually don’t even realize that something has happened. It’s actually rather anti-climatic.

The purpose of Atlas Corrections are also different in the fact that it is focused on restoring normal positioning or Normal Structure of the head and neck. By restoring normal positioning and mechanics of the head and neck, there results a normalization of perfusion (blood flow) into the head/neck, improvement in the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, and a reduction in tensile forces on the brain stem/spinal cord.

Atlas Corrections

Because of the way the the head and neck affect the over all health of the body, the direction of the force, and alignment of the structure of the spine is VERY important when using Atlas Corrections. Doctors that use Atlas Corrections as their primary intervention usually see a myriad of complex neurological cases in addition to some of the more common chiropractic cases (neck pain, back pain, sciatica, etc). Some of these Secondary Conditions include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Temporomandibular Dysfunction
  • Migraine Headache
  • Movement Disorders
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitis

Although many people have reservations about having their head and neck examined, because of the very precise and gentle nature of Atlas Corrections, there have been little to no adverse events reported with hand or instrument assisted corrections through some of the most common techniques (NUCCA, Orthospinology, Toggle Recoil, Atlas Orthogonal, etc).

So How Do I Know If I Need It?

Now this is a question that I can’t really answer for you. Traditional manipulative therapies and chiropractors that use Atlas Corrections do have some overlap as far as the type of patients they see.

Is one better than the other?

No idea. It’s never been documented or proven in the form of a clinical trial. That means it’s up to you to decide what form of care you want for your body. In competent hands, both may be powerful tools to help you achieve your health goals.

There are certainly times that I’ve sent people out for traditional spinal manipulations, and there have been times where traditional chiros or PT’s have referred to me. This is not a contest on who is better, it’s about appropriately addressing the needs of the patient.

I hope this helps clear up the questions, and hopefully the internet trolls won’t fire back too badly. If you have any questions or comments, make sure to find me on Twitter at @drjonathanchung.


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Dr. Chung is a practicing Structural Chiropractor in the West Palm Beach area. He has been published in peer reviewed scientific journals and is a sought after speaker in health and wellness. Follow his blog at http://keystonechiropractic.smbusinesswebsite.com/category/keystone-chiropractic-blog/ or find him on twitter at @drjonathanchung