Archive for July, 2010


Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

There have been some fascinating analogous breakthroughs occurring in seemingly unrelated technology fields which help to elucidate chiropractic principles that have been with us for decades, have been neglected and ignored due to a perceived lack of reinforcing and validating evidence, and because as a profession we have suffered from low self-esteem and have displayed an increasing tendency to adopt other health care models when we believe that our models are somehow unacceptable compared to an invisible “best practice”.

One concept that is an absolute must-study for chiropractors is that of Tensegrity:

The word tensegrity (a contraction of tension and structural integrity) was coined by Buckminster Fuller (an American architect, author, designer, inventor, and futurist, born 1895, died 1983) in 1948 to describe a class of structures first invented by the artist Kenneth Snelson (a contemporary sculptor and photographer, born 1927). Snelson’s sculptures, which are often delicate in appearance, depend on the tension between rigid pipes and flexible cables. This is achieved through “a win-win combination of push and pull”.

Fuller’s most famous outcome of this model is the geodesic dome.

Where tensegrity provides a better framework for chiropractic than traditional biomechanics is by explaining why all living forms are structurally stable yet flexibly adaptive, yielding but with a great resistance to damage.

In other words human bodies at both macroscopic and microscopic levels don’t follow normal engineering, mechanical and architectural principles – they follow tensegrity principles.

According to Snelson, weaving is the mother of tensegrity: “Weaving and tensegrity share the same grounding principle of alternating helical directions; of left to right; of bypasses clockwise and counterclockwise.” Similarly living tissues whether talking muscle or connective tissue, or the microscopic structures that form cells, are woven together and not just cemented together at their ends and corners. It is this very principle that makes living tissue flexible while enormously resistant to compression and strain.

In a tensegrity sculpture, individual tension lines (strings, wires or rope) are attached to the ends of struts so that each assembly comprises a closed system of tension and compression parts. Each tension line connects individually to the ends of two separate struts and the lines are made taut so that they bind the struts, connecting them as a continuous tension network. The forces introduced by the tightening are permanently stored in the structure, a state known as prestressing. The solid components resist compression while the elastic components resist tension. Now visualise any joint in the human body and you can start to see that the bony struts don’t actually completely meet at their articulations but are prestressed by the surrounding ligamentous and connective tissues creating a naturally formed tensegrity sculpture.

Because all tension lines (string, wire, cable, ligament, tendon, muscle) have some degree of elastic stretch, tensegrity structures themselves are elastic and springy depending on the tightness of the prestressing and the characteristics of the tension material and the structure’s geometrical form. If you apply a compressive or distractive load the structure will yield and adapt – distort. But as soon as the external forces are removed the structure will spring back to its original state.

Now if we shrink our viewpoint to the microscopic cellular level then we similarly find that “living cells stabilize their internal cytoskeleton, and control their shape and mechanics, using a tensegrity architectural system.” (See Tensegrity in a Cell: Click Here… )

Ingber and colleagues have even approached questions relating to how mechanical distortion of the cell and cytoskeleton influence intracellular biochemistry and pattern formation, by combining the use of techniques from various fields, including molecular cell biology, mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry, and computer science. They have shown that contractile microfilaments in the cell’s molecular skeleton, or cytoskeleton, act like stretched rubber bands as they compress hollow cytoskeletal fibers called microtubules and pull on molecular pegs that anchor the cell to an underlying scaffold – the extracellular matrix. Moreover, they have found that physical distortion of the cell and cytoskeleton can alter cellular biochemistry and even gene expression.

Don’t skip over the last statement because if you read slowly you literally see a parallel for the chiropractic model for how mechanical dysfunction can lead to physiological malfunction and how correction of this might direct towards expression of maximum human potential!

In other words, trying to re-establish a physical view of biology, Ingber has shown that cells, far from being formless blobs, use tension to stabilize their structure. And he has demonstrated, through two decades of experiments, that tensegrity not only gives cells their shape, but helps regulate their biochemistry.

Ingber says that cells have “tone,” just like muscles, because of the constant pull of the cytoskeletal filaments. Much like a stretched violin string produces different sounds when force is applied at different points along its length, the cell processes chemical signals differently depending on how much it is distorted.

One of the most ignored models of vertebral subluxation is the tonal model but if you take the time to investigate this alternative biomechanical and neurological idea you see that the spine resembles a tensegrity model (Artists have recreated spinal columns and pelvic girdles with their sculptures). And that the biomechanics of the spine cannot be isolated to intervertebral movement and its influence on the intervertebral foramen at an isolated intersegmental level; but the spine and all of its surrounding soft tissues, including the meningeal and nervous tissues form a linked closed system where change in tension and distortion influence the entire functional unit and change the degree of tension in the spinal cord, thereby modulating tonal frequency in the central nervous system.

What this literally means is that a subluxation at one level influences the entire system: And from this point of view a subluxation, especially with meningeal attachments to the spinal cord has a global impact on the physiology of the nervous system.

To paraphrase Ingber the spinal cord processes chemical signals differently depending on how much it is distorted.

Torque Release Technique offers a practical application of this model and trains participants in how to detect the site of initiation of mechanical and hence tonal distortion in the spinal column – this is known as the primary subluxation. Contemplate the primary subluxation as the source of distorting force on the spinal tensegrity model which leads to maladjustment of the tonal frequencies of the neurospinal system - abnormal sensory perception and motor output being the outcome. But because distortion at one point creates distortion of the entire system, an advanced methodolgy is required to differentially diagnose the “epicentre” of the problem: This methodology is known as the protocol of Torque Release Technique.

No other chiropractic technique has offered a live, non-linear and non-invasive method to determine exactly where and how the human body wants to be adjusted. Hope to see you at our next training program – check out upcoming dates at

Sources and Essential Reading:

The Architecture of Life. Donald Ingber. Scientific American. January 1998. Click Here…

The Mechanical Cell. Nancy Fliesler. Dream, The Magazine of Possibilities. Spring 2004. Click Here…

Tensegrity I. Cell structure and hierarchical systems biology. Donald Ingber. Journal of Cell Science. 2003. Click Here…

Tensegrity II. How structural networks influence cellular information processing networks. Donald Ingber. Journal of Cell Science. 2003.  Click Here…

The Geometry of Anatomy. The Bones of Tensegrity. Tom Flemons. Intension Designs. Click Here…

Weaving. Mother of Tensegrity. Kenneth Snelson. Click Here…

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