The most important objective instrument I use as an Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractor, is the K4 Thermoscribe. The K4 Thermoscribe, or K4 for short, provides a specific neurological test that I utilized on every patient visit. The most important analysis the K4 provides to me is the patient’s health progress and if an adjustment is needed. When patients ask me what I am measuring with the K4 Thermoscribe, my short answer is: “Heat.” A more specific short answer (and my favorite) is “Electrical Energy Resistance Heat.” Dr. B.J. Palmer used this term along with two others when describing the measurement of heat that the Neurocalometer (functioning unit of the K4) detects: “Resistance to transmission of abstract energy flowing thru concrete substance. Energy behind keeps pushing energy forward. Obstruction prohibits getting thru, hence it works in excess at place of resistance. Work always produces heat. It is impossible to say that NO chemical reaction occurs, yet it is reasonably safe to call this ‘electrical energy resistance heat,’ in preference to its being chemical heat.”
But why am I measuring this “electrical energy resistance heat” of the cervical spine? What does it have to do with an adjustment? And what does it have to do with health? These questions can be answered in a few deduced statements with regards to heat and health:
Heat is matter in motion;
Motion is heat;
Heat is energy;
Life is organized energy;
Life is motion;
The nerve system carries the heavy responsibility of organizing energy for life;
To monitor heat is to measure the organization and balance of life energy.
The organization and balance of life energy is directed by the mental impulse of the Central Nerve System. Dr. B.J. Palmer aptly made the connection that: “Life is but motion; motion is but function; function is but mental impulse.” The Central Nerve System is made up of the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord. The main communication station for the mental impulse is the brainstem. Upper Cervical Chiropractors understand that the brainstem must function properly if the rest of the Central Nerve System (the brain and spinal cord) is to function properly. The main goal of Chiropractic is to help bring functional balance to the Nerve System. If the Nerve System is in functional balance, your overall health potential increases.
When we measure the heat radiating from the upper cervical spine, where the brainstem is located, we are measuring the organization and balance of life energy within you: The Mental Impulse. Heat is organized and balanced within the body bilaterality, or two-sided. Visualize drawing a line straight down the middle of your body, dividing your body into left and right halves. A majority of your body is already divided up into two: We have a left and right eye, a left and right lung, arm, leg, etc. This division even occurs in our brain; we have left and right hemispheres. When the body is in homeostatic balance, the right lung’s temperature will generally be similar to the left lung. The reason that this is possible, is because the nerves that supply the left and right lungs, branch off the spinal cord at the same spinal level. We could hypothetically measure the temperature of two bilateral points found anywhere in the body to monitor homeostasis. What is unique about the brainstem, is that it is the meeting point of all the “left and right” nerves that innervate the left and right organs, glands, and tissues of the body. The nerves that supply your right big toe and the nerves that supply your left big toe, both meet up in the brainstem before again diverging off into the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Because the brainstem is a “relay station” for all the functional energy occurring within the body, it produces a lot of heat as a by-product of that functional energy. The heat by-product is then transferred to capillary beds within the head and neck. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels where nutrients, gases, wastes, and energy can be exchanged in the body. The heat energy is conducted and dissipated throughout the skin of the head and neck. This is called thermoregulation and is one of the main functions of our skin. Some of the first nerves to branch off the brainstem innervate the skin and capillary beds of the upper cervical spine area. This initial innervation occurs because both skin tissue and nerve tissue are developed from the same fetal beginnings, the ectoderm. Because of their developmental past, we can measure the heat radiating off the skin of the cervical spine and can directly and noninvasively monitor how the brainstem is functioning. Thermoregulation helps dissipate varying quantities of excess heat to help maintain homeostasis.
Why is homeostasis important? Homeostasis is defined as “the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.” When you are not able to maintain homeostatic balance, internal stability becomes discoordinated. Discoordination leads to dysfunction; ‘lack’ of balance leads to ‘sick’ function. The body is always adapting to external and internal forces to reach the set point of homeostasis. Visualize a seesaw with only one person sitting on a side. If we want the see-saw to be level, or in homeostatic balance, we would need to place another person of equal weight on the other side to even the scale. This state of balance or equilibrium is controlled by the mental impulses of the brainstem.
We help bring functional balance to the Nerve System by looking to the upper cervical spine. Why the upper cervical spine? The brainstem, the master control area for the Nerve System, resides in the upper cervical spine. The brainstem has the highest concentration of nerve fibers found anywhere in the body. Every organ, gland, and tissue of your body has a corresponding nerve fiber connecting to the brainstem. If you wiggle your big toe, there is a connection of nerve fibers passing through the brainstem that link the brain above to the small muscles of the big toe below that cause it to wiggle.
Certain micro and macro traumatic events can shift the top bones of your neck out of their normal relationship. When the bones shift out of normal relationship with each other, they can get closer than normal to the nerves they are trying to protect. The closer the bones gets to the nerves, the more impingement, or pressure occurs. Increased pressure causes increased friction between the hard bone/connective tissues and the soft nerve. The by-product of this increased friction is increased heat. We can then measure this increased heat through the K4 instrument. Once certain degrees or abnormal patterns of heat are indicated, a vertebral subluxation can be analyzed. This specific analysis of the subluxation helps indicate to me how your health is progressing and whether you need an adjustment or not. But to dive deeper into that statement, the heat measurement can indicate ten different but interconnected questions to me as a Upper Cervical Chiropractor:
Is interference present?
Is interference absent?
Does a subluxation exist?
Has a subluxation been corrected?
Has the subluxation not been corrected?
Should I adjust?
Should I not adjust?
Has an adjustment been made?
Has an adjustment not been made?
Should I stop adjusting?
This is why I scan on every visit, prior to a potential adjustment. If a subluxation doesn’t exist at that moment, how can I adjust a subluxation that is not there? If I do make an adjustment, how do I know that I actually did make the adjustment? Objective analysis keeps me honest as a Chiropractor and ultimately provides security and transfers health results to the patient.