As a chiropractor, Dr. Clarence Gonstead transformed his profession in a small Wisconsin town and created a chiropractic Mecca. The Gonstead System continues to be one of the most influential examples of Chiropractic, and he continues to be one of the most influential figures in the history of the profession.
In his early years, Gonstead learned how to repair tractors and automobiles, an interest that foreshadowed his later achievements in spinal correction. In Willow Lake, South Dakota, Gonstead was born on July 23, 1898. Primrose, Wisconsin, became the family’s new home during his early years. A crippling case of rheumatoid arthritis struck him at the age of 19, leaving him bedridden for weeks. A course of adjustments by Dr. J.B. Olson helped him walk once again after his aunt sought help from her chiropractor.
As a result of this experience, Clarence enrolled at Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1923 and graduated. This mechanical experience played a significant role in influencing Gonstead’s reinterpretation of prevailing ideas about subluxation during that time. When he was an automotive engineer and a dominant paradigm in chiropractic is Palmer’s theory that vertebral displacement causes neural foramina to encroach. Through the application of biomechanical principles and clinical observation, Dr. Gonstead challenged this notion. As a result of the inflammatory response caused by damaged disc tissue, he proposed the Level Disc Theory, which suggests that subluxation results from nerve pressure, resulting in neurological complications. In fact, it was revolutionary to assert that subluxation originated from disc involvement. With this principle in mind, Dr. Gonstead developed an entirely new way to correct vertebral subluxations. His goal was to restore an optimal relationship between the vertebrae and the disc. To maximize the efficiency of detecting and correcting subluxations, Dr. Gonstead invented several inventions for this new system.
By measuring bilateral temperature differences in the spine, his invention of the Nervoscope enabled practitioners to objectively pinpoint neural components of subluxations and effectively ‘troubleshoot’ them. The cervical chair and knee-chest table that Dr. Gonstead designed made it possible for chiropractors to achieve the necessary ‘lift’ to center vertebrae back on the disc, using gravity and spinal mechanics to their benefit.
The clinic he built in Mt. Horeb Wisconsin, which boasted an airstrip and hotel, at its peak, was internationally renowned for its dedication and constant refinement of its craft. At the height of his fame, patients literally travelled the world for his care. Often working late into the next morning, Dr. Gonstead adjusted patients all day long and never went to bed the same day he woke up. In addition, it was Dr. Gonstead who did not lose a single patient to polio during the first half of the 20th century.
It was Dr. Gonstead’s revolution in how we understood subluxation. In addition, he understood that subluxation was more complex than a single thing, and so developed a chiropractic system in which multiple diagnostic criteria were used to analyze a patient’s problem and correlations were made, resulting in the most accurate possible diagnosis of the patient’s condition. “Chiropractic always works. Dr. Gonstead has left behind a legacy of excellence in chiropractic and for all who seek out chiropractic care.
“You may question your application, but never question the principle,” says Dr. Gonstead.
Contact your Gold Coast Chiropractor today to learn more about the Gonstead System.