Pettibon Technique

While there are many chiropractic techniques that mobilize the spine, our office uses techniques that are designed to correct the spine through the use of modern adjusting techniques combined with specialized physical therapy. Our primary goal is to provide quick relief to our patients; however, spinal correction confirmed by post x-rays is essential to prevent relapse and maintain optimal health. It is not practical to assume correction can occur without addressing the the ligaments and tendons of the spinal column.

Amy5The spine is viewed as a closed kinetic system made up of hard and soft tissues. The soft tissues—muscles, discs, and ligaments—hold the spine upright in its optimum position for function relative to gravity, while moving it through its expected ranges of motions. As a result, spinal correction has to involve the entire spine rather than just one segment or vertebrae. An example: If ligaments are torn in the lumbar spine, the part that's torn allows aberrant motions which often cause pain and dysfunction in other areas of the spine such as the neck. The neck pain and dysfunction won't be resolved until the torn ligament and aberrant motion are treated first.

Three different types of forces can injure the spinal system: sudden applied, repetitive, and cumulative. A whiplash is the most common example of a sudden applied force. Repetitive and cumulative forces come from time-dependent functions of our positions over long periods. In other words, the spine's positions in work, play, or daily living activities like sleeping, reading, watching TV, etc. Understanding how soft tissues react to these forces provides the reasons why conventional chiropractic has challenges to produce permanent spine and posture correction. The Pettibon system used in our office addresses all the components required to correct the spine through a sequence of therapies listed below:

  • Induction of Hysteresis
  • Isometric Exercises
  • Pettibon Weighting
  • Specific Adjusting
  • Specific pre and post Xrays


Hysteresis: A phenomenon associated with energy loss exhibited by viso-elastic materials when they're subjected to progressive loading and unloading cycles over time.

Ligaments, discs, and tendons, have holding energy. Loading and unloading cycles through compression and traction cause the temporary loss of this energy or hysteresis. Hysteresis changes the nucleus pulposis of the discs from hydro-gel, a Jell-O like resistance to motion, into hydro-sol, water-like solutions with limited resistance to positional changes. When the soft tissue's resistance is significantly reduced, then the joints can easily be repositioned before the holding energy is regained. Within 15 to 20 minutes of inactivity, the holding energy is regained. Our office uses a series of decompression, traction, flexibility and mobility activities to achieve hysteresis. For information on these protocols see our physical therapy page.

What does this mean?


Why Isometric Exercises?

Two kinds of muscle fibers make up the musculoskeletal system. One is fast-twitch muscle fiber. The other is slow-twitch muscle fiber. Muscles have both types of fibers but usually one fiber type dominates a muscle group. Our postural muscles have mostly slow-twitch fiber.

In the gym, when we're 'pumping iron' and doing aerobic exercises, we're affecting fast-twitch muscle fiber or phasic muscles. What's happening to our postural muscles? Not much. So exercises to strengthen phasic muscles don't improve posture.

When phasic muscles fatigue and/or when they're injured, they go flaccid and collapse. Postural muscles react very differently from phasic muscles when they're injured or fatigued: they spasm. And the way postural muscles spasm is rarely even, either side-to-side or front-to-back. That's why poor posture distorts our appearance because our spine is no longer aligned.

Amy2Isometric exercises, which involve pushing against a force that moves very slowly or doesn't move at all, help eliminate postural muscle spasms as well as rehabilitate their balance, strength, and endurance. Individual isometric exercises are developed for our patients based on their unique x-ray findings. For information on these protocols, see our physical therapy page.

What does this mean?

Strengthening muscle groups cannot change your posture. The posture can only be changed by addressing the slow twitch ligaments and tendons of the spine.

Pettibon Weighting

The Pettibon Weighting System in our office consists of specially designed head, shoulder and hip weights that patients wear. The amount of weights and their placement depend upon the spinal displacement that needs to be corrected.

How the weights work: Wearing the weights alters the head's, thoracic cage's and pelvis's centers of mass, causing the righting reflexes to send spine correcting sensory input to the nervous system. To balance the body to the weights, the nervous system's innate organizing energy causes some involved spinal muscles to relax and others to contract, thereby repositioning and correcting the spine and posture relative to gravity. Additionally, the weights make the involved muscles do isometric exercises, needed to restore their strength, endurance and balance. For information on these protocols, see our physical therapy page.

What does this Mean ?

If we strengthen the posture in its corrected position it will assume that position.

Specific Adjusting

Once the spine is prepared for its adjustment, specific low force adjustments can be used to make the corrections in a controlled maneuver that does not require rotating or twisting the spine. Our adjustments are effective, safe and extremely comfortable. Most of our patients confirm that they do not have any discomfort with our treatments.

Post X-rays

In order to determine if a correction has been obtained, there are a number of variables that are necessary. The x-rays must be consistent and accurate. Our office uses a laser aligned unit and centering head clamps to ensure that films are accurate. Once the films are developed, the principals of physics and geometry are used to interpret the films and create the correction plan. Confirming a correction is essential to verify correction; therefore post x-rays are taken at designated times to ensure our results. All x-rays are reviewed with our patients. You will realize from the beginning that our office is unique and dedicated to achieving great results.

Below is an example of pre and post x-rays.