Toning Up & Tuning In With Tonal Chiropractic

Life is the expression of tone. In that sentence is the basic principle of Chiropractic.

DD Palmer

Too Much or Too Little

Too much, or too little, that’s the cause of all our problems. Too much work, too little work. Too much food, too little food. Too much money, too little money. Too much energy, too little energy. Too much nerve tension, too little nerve tension. 

Too much and too little were the only “diseases” the founders of chiropractic believed mattered. And you can’t say they were wrong. Too much Ebola, too little immune system, is a big problem. 

It’s simple in the big picture. But what does it mean when the too much and too little is tone? Is the body missing out on music, or muscle tone, or was it some kind of ethereal vibration they were talking about back then? Tonal chiropractors still exist. I am one of them. So what do I mean when I say there is too much or too little tone?

What is tone?

“Life is the expression of tone. In that sentence is the basic principle of Chiropractic. Tone is the normal degree of nerve tension. Tone is expressed in functions by the normal elasticity, activity, strength and excitability of the various organs, as observed in a state of health. Consequently, the cause of disease is any variation of tone — nerves too tense or too slack.”

DD. Palmer

When most chiropractors talk about being tonal practitioners, they mean that they are looking for areas of increased tension on the spinal cord and adjust the spine to release that tension. The idea being that postural dysfunction, or changes in vertebral alignment or movement, create tension on the spinal cord, and this negatively impacts health. Adjusting the spine to optimize tone works to restore the perfect amount oftension on the nerves and make people healthier.

Think of it like an orchestra or rock band, that depends on stringed instruments. If the violins and guitars don’t have the right amount of tension on their strings, they won’t vibrate at the right notes and everyone will be out of tune. It will be chaos. No partying when the strings are too tight or too loose.

The best support for this comes from a neurosurgeon named Alf Breig. I like the idea of working to minimize adverse mechanical cord tension, but I’m not sure that we know enough about how it works to really understand it. Is the tension the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, the tension on the spinal cord, or the associated negative changes in the body? And then, how do we really know that we’ve actually corrected the cord tension? All we can do is measure the changes in the things we associate with increased tone.

Tonal Revolution

I believe the core tone settings for the body reside in the brain itself, and the best way to restore the tonal harmony of the body is by stimulating the brain with very specific and intentional chiropractic adjustments. Inside of your brain are centers that integrate all the incoming information about what is going on in your life, and then decide how to best respond. You respond by changing the level of tone throughout the body.

When you are stressed, high tone in muscles and low tone in digestive organs is usually a good thing. When you are relaxed your digestive organ tone goes up and you get to work digesting food and repairing muscle. 

Ideally you’re only stressed in situations you can deal with and resolve right away. That’s how this system of tonal modulation was designed to work. You come across a physical or environmental threat to your well being, such as a tiger, or cold weather. You run away from the tiger, you fight it, or you die. All of that happens within minutes. If it’s cold, you mobilize energy to build a shelter and a fire. In the early days of human development that only took a few hours. 

In the real world

In the real world very few of us reading this regularly find ourselves in situations where we are physically in danger. Instead we are in situations where we are financially or relationally challenged. Maybe someone at work has it out for us and is working at making life miserable, so we never get to relax. For a time we live our lives energetically ramped up. Eventually we decide to change the situation and we do something about it.

Or we don’t, and eventually we get exhausted. All the while our bodies are carrying the distorted postures that go along with stressed psychological states. This is where the spine and posture start to tell the tory of the last 5-10 years instead of the last 5-10 days. These are the people who have high tension, but low tone. That’s right, the two don’t have to go together. You can have low tension and high tone, or high tension and high tone, or any other combination of the two!

The tone is the state of the entire person, not just the level of tension on the nerves. The optimal level of tone can change, but it should always exactly match the demands of the environment. 

Tonal Chiropractic 

Tonal chiropractic works by checking the tension and tone throughout the body and working to get it all harmonized and in tune. It does this by helping the brain better assess the inside and outside environment and respond with just the right amount of energy. Chiropractic is all about energy and information. With the right amount of energy, and accurate information, you can transform almost any challenge into an opportunity. 

But we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we have learned to see it. It’s important that we do. Imagine how difficult life would be if we had to respond to every situation as if it were completely new. What would it be like to wake up and not know if you could trust your parents, or know if the breakfast on the table was edible or poison, or to be unsure if school busses were different from army tanks in context? 

Tonal chiropractic helps us become more flexible in how we perceive the world by breaking neural ruts that have been forcing a certain way of being upon us. The process creates a certain amount of instability. It asks us to challenge the assumptions we are making at conscious and subconscious levels about our body, and about the world around us. It gives us the opportunity to reevaluate our decision making processes and find new and better ways of doing things. 

Done well, the results of tonal chiropractic are transformational. They can restore the body to a state of proper tone and life really does start getting better.

Imagine if The Beetles only had instruments that were out of tune. They’d never have developed the fame they have today. Nobody would have wanted to listen to them, they wouldn’t have wanted to play. But with good quality, well tuned instruments, it’s a party.

Getting your vibe right

Life with balanced tone is good. You’re flexible, energized, looking for the good in situations and turning challenges into opportunities. Check out the book Operating System Nature: The Birth of The Tradition on Amazon if you want to learn more. 

Photo by Chris Arock on Unsplash


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