March 21, 2012 by
Filed under: Case of the month, Cases, Spinewave Bulletin, Symptoms 

“I was truly shocked when I saw the x rays but it certainly explained my problems.”

So often I’ve heard from clients that a therapist of some description has run their fingers down their spine and told them they have scoliosis. This is not how you define scoliosis. It’s defined by x ray only and the curvature has to be more than 10 degrees.

Spinal fusion started becoming popular in the 1900s. And then by the mid-1900s Harrington rods were introduced by Paul Harrington. In all this time, cutting the spine open and fusing bones together still seems like the logical first step to people with back pain – costing ACC hundreds of thousand of dollars every year – even in light of the spine being the key signalling device for the central nervous system to maintain harmony within the body. Some research has even suggested that scoliosis might manifest itself due to lesions in the posterior columns of the nervous system during the early years. This central nervous system dysfunction was hypothesised to be a decreased vibratory sensation1,4. So as a side note: Adjust the child.

For the brain to be aware of its internal and external environment, and to lead adequate self-directed healing, the spine needs to be mobile.

The risks of surgery become quite overwhelming: Neurological damage, loss of normal spine function, additional strain on unfused vertebrae, excruciating post-surgical pain (sometimes only a year down the track), infection, and in the instance of scoliosis, further curvature progression. Due to these complications, re-operation is necessary, sometimes referred to as reconstructive, re-corrective, revision, or salvage surgery. Complication rates vary, but failure of fusion has been found in more than 50% of treated patients and among 25 adult patients, 40% required salvage surgery2. What we know now, from a patient’s perspective at least, is the preferred plan of action would likely be avoiding unnecessary risk, i.e. avoiding surgery (or keep it as the final option) once all conservative measures have failed.

While mechanical medicine was making its surgical advances in the 1950s, so too was chiropractic. The developer of chiropractic after his father, BJ Palmer, reported on a case of scoliosis in 1951 amongst his extensive plethora of research. BJ Palmer also had at that time, the biggest collection of pathological and anomolous bones in the world. BJ reported 4,392 total specimens, containing 13,697 skeletal elements. It was estimated that these 4,392 specimens represented approximately 3,000 persons. BJ Palmer assembled the Osteological Studio in a room for student study. Even then, the collection was known to the professors of anatomy in many of the nearby state medical colleges. These specimens were available to them and were often studied by them to better qualify them for carrying on their lecture work in their own classes.

In Case #1131, BJ Palmer uses spinographs (x rays) and the neurocalograph, an instrument for the measurement of nerve interference, similar to today’s thermography. The redrawing of the x ray and neurocalograph output are shown in the diagrams. In those days they didn’t have scanners, therefore it’s assumed BJ traced over the x rays to obtain the drawings. The neurocalograph shows nerve interference to be in the lower back, which happens to correspond with the patient’s pain. It also shows some nerve interference in the upper cervical region. Palmer focused on the upper cervical spine as the area of adjustment: “Specific cervical pictures revealed axis (C2) subluxated posterior and right”.

He writes: “The neurocalograph reveals the causative factor in this case to be quite remote from the area of pain or from the area of spinal distortion as shown by the spinograph. The average uninformed mind usually thinks in terms of direct manipulation of the affected areas when the spine is concerned, rather than with the correction of the cause which is usually in the atlas axis region of the spine. Patient was adjusted axis PR (posterior and right). Patient allowed to rest for a few minutes and then re-read revealing the break reading gone. Neurocalograph reading next day reveals break reading gone. Pattern changing in middle cervical region. Patient reported, “Head felt clearer as though load had been lifted. Felt glow over body, especially in hands and feet.” BJ Palmer.4

How much has the human body changed in the last 100 years? Not much. I’m still finding C2 subluxation common in scoliosis today.

When I was about 8 years old, I visited a chiropractor for the first time as a result of a promotion at a local shopping mall. After examining me, he said I had a twisted spine and that I would need ongoing treatment. My parents were recent immigrants to New Zealand at the time and simply couldn’t afford adjustments for me. Also, I wasn’t experiencing any pain so we left it at that and I forgot all about it.

Many years later I began to feel worsening pain around my left shoulder blade. I assumed it was from the weight of my bass guitar. At the time I was performing more and more regularly, something that involves standing for hours with a heavy bass on one shoulder. It felt so locked up, no massage or movement could loosen it anymore. I bought a special guitar strap that should split the weight evenly across both shoulders but it didn’t work. All it did was move the pain slightly higher. This meant my shoulders couldn’t possibly be even and one shoulder was carrying all of the weight.

Around the same time I decided to take up Aikido, a fascinating martial art that involves learning to roll across the ground safely. Even when I did a roll correctly, whenever any part of my back made contact with the mat I felt excruciating pain, which hampered my progress. The tension in my upper back became almost constant and more acute when I was tired. Sleep was becoming uncomfortable too.

I was truly shocked when I saw the x rays but it certainly explained my problems.

After about a month of seeing Neil twice weekly, I started to feel changes. The tension and pain seemed to shift from one place to another then, suddenly, that great immovable knot loosened. It was almost as if I finally accepted the way my spine really curves and stopped being so rigid. Over the months my flexibility slowly improved and the pain was reduced greatly. I could sleep comfortably on my side, which I was unable to do before and I could perform rolls without pain.

I always found my visits pleasant and relaxing. Pip always made me feel welcome and at ease and Neil was always professional yet personable. Each time I left feeling energised. I was very impressed with my treatment at Spinewave and would recommend it to anyone with scoliosis. It made a big difference during a stressful time.

Kind regards,

Henrieta Tornyai

© Dr Neil Bossenger 2012


  1. Barrack RL, Wyatt MP, Whitecloud TS 3rd, et al. Vibratory hypersensitivity in idiopathic scoliosis. J Pediatr Orthop. Jul-Aug 1988;8(4):389-95.
  2. Goodall D & Weiss H. Rate of complications in scoliosis surgery – a systematic review of the Pub Med literature. Scoliosis 2008, 3:9.
  3. Wyatt MP, Barrack RL, Mubarak SJ, et al. Vibratory response in idiopathic scoliosis. J Bone Joint Surg Br. Nov 1986;68(5):714-8.
  4. The Green Books (1951). Compiled Rob Sinnott, D.C. Chiropractic Clinical Controlled Research. Chapter 1: Researching the Unknown Man. Chiropractic Books 1997. Volume 25: 384-402.
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