Introduction to SOT (Continued)

Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT) is a chiropractic technique first developed by Dr Bertrand DeJarnette (“the Major”) in the USA in 1925. Originally an engineer, DeJarnette suffered serious injuries after an explosion which eventually led him to spinal manipulative treatment, which he credited with subsequently saving his life. He was so impressed he went on to train as both an osteopath and a chiropractor in order to help others.

Once qualified as a chiropractor, DeJarnette felt that the classic chiropractic adjustment did not provide the full answer to better health. He then spent the next few decades performing clinical research to develop a unique approach to chiropractic treatment and health, based on normalising the relationship between the sacrum and the occiput. The technique includes detailed procedures for analysing and treating pelvic, spinal, cranial, visceral and extremity disorders using a specific indicator based protocol.

DeJarnette’s work was methodical and he had the benefit of working in a less litigious time, when ethical committees did not exist! He had a true passion to understand the human body and the effects of chiropractic adjustments on physiology. As well as being a dedicated researcher he was a prolific writer and published his work and conclusions in over 100 papers, booklets and books.

One example of his single mindedness in pursuit of better health for his patients is the work he started in 1941 to analyse the lumbar spine. In his words.

"I undertook to do something that had never been done before in chiropractic research. I worked to produce techniques whereby I could subluxate the fifth lumbar as I worked to develop techniques for the correction of fifth lumbar subluxations. I knew that unless we could actually produce distortions by subluxating fifth lumbar, we would never know what a fifth lumbar distortion or distortions looked like. It may sound strange, but it is much more difficult to wilfully subluxate a vertebra than it is to supposedly correct it. This process actually required two years of research."

"I started by acquiring as many patients as possible who were free of lumbo-sacral stress symptoms. My first objective was to gather at least two dozen patients who could stand upright, flex forward and touch their fingertips to the floor without producing leg or back pain. I wanted their ages to run from 18 to 50 years. I examined over two hundred people before I found eighteen who would qualify. These eighteen people knew that they were part of an experiment, and most of them co-operated very well. I now studied each patient by the use of the distortion analyser for three complete examinations on succeeding days. I would photograph the spine with a camera at a pre-focussed distance. This was repeated for three consecutive days. Those films were then overlaid to see if there was a noticeable difference in the day-to-day photographs. I had to discard two of those eighteen because their spines were too variable. The sixteen remaining stayed with me for two years while I completed my experiments. Each of the sixteen now received the same type of adjustment, and that adjustment was designed to place a strain on the fifth lumbar that would carry the spinous to the patient’s right. This adjustment was repeated daily for four days. I started on the fifth day to photograph each of the sixteen patients’ backs. One patient developed a severe reaction within ten minutes following the first adjustment, but within twenty minutes following the first adjustment his discomfort subsided so he was able to carry on. Within ten days all but two of the patients showed a decided muscular groove rotation to the right. Two of the patients developed a pain in their left hips on the seventh day. One of the patients complained of a stiff neck, after he had been playing ball, so that was not conclusive. Two patients complained of mid-dorsal pain. One complained of cystitis, one complained that he had a tight band around his middle, one patient developed a one-half inch shortening of his right leg. One patient developed a severe cold. Only two patients developed the same symptoms, i.e. hip pain. I was badly handicapped during this experiment in that I did not have x-ray equipment sufficiently good enough to do good lateral x-rays. I did do A-P x-rays on all sixteen patients at least twice during the experiment. One very important thing developed that was consistent. Each of the sixteen patients developed palpatory pain over the left transverse of their atlas. None of the sixteen had such before the first experimental adjustment. Within four months of the last experimental adjustment to rotate the fifth lumbar spinous to the right, five of the sixteen patients suffered acute low back failure. One was hospitalised for three weeks."

"So the experimental group went on. Having their distortions measured. Seeing what happened to the pelvic girdle. Measuring leg length, weight balance on twin scales, checking sacrum, ilia and lumbars. It became apparent that the spinous would more easily rotate toward the low leg side. It also became apparent that even in the presence of a short leg, if that leg was on the side opposite spinous rotation, a lift might equalise the legs, but it did not change spinous rotation or the pain associated with that position. After the conclusion of the experiment, I then attempted to correct. Of the sixteen, one went off to California and one was hospitalised and never came back. So now there were fourteen. All were carefully analysed before attempting correction. Many things had changed. One patient had developed a severe dorsal scoliosis. One patient had developed migraine, one hay fever, and one severe acne. One of the males developed enuresis. It was recognised that some of these conditions could have developed anyway, regardless of the experiment. That is one of the great problems in chiropractic research, a perfect control is difficult, if not impossible. Of the remaining fourteen, the left transverse arch of atlas remained painful on each until the correction was completed. One patient responded very poorly to correction, the others responded well."

This is typical of DeJarnette’s approach to developing his techniques and is just one example of his investigations into the vertebral subluxation and its effects on human anatomy and physiology. DeJarnette carried on researching and publishing his findings until the mid 1980’s, when he was well into his eighties, and died in 1992 at the age of 93.