What is SOT?

Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT) was originally formulated by Major Bertrand DeJarnette (The Major) who was a Doctor (chiropractor and osteopath) and Engineer in the 1920’s. The Major was inspired to go beyond simple spinal adjusting and developed methods of correcting the Cranium, Pelvis, Extremities and Organs. This study brought about a system of adjusting patterns in the body, not just single body parts. The most significant pattern was the relationship between the sacrum and occiput (which became the name of the technique).

An important distinction of SOT is the use of indicators. Each adjustment has a sign or signal that the we use to know when and where to adjust. For example, muscle tension at the knee may indicate the pelvis needs correction, and connective tissue fibers at the base of the skull (called occipital fibers) indicate different vertebra in the back or spine may be in need of an adjustment. This also tells us on the next visit if the correction has been completely or marginally effective. From these indicators, we design a different adjustment set on each visit, listening to the body each time. It takes study to master this method of care, but it makes for an effective, precise adjustment without relying exclusively on x-rays.

Frequently Asked Questions – Click to Expand
What does SOT stand for?

SOT stands for Sacro Occipital Technique (or Technic). “Sacro” means “related to, or associated with, the sacrum.” The sacrum is the foundation for the spine. The sacrum is often called the tailbone though this is not exactly correct. “Occipital” means “related to or associated with the occiput.” Occiput means “the back of the head.” So traditionally, SOT is a method of normalizing the relationship between the foundation of the spine and the top of the spine. It is this relationship and how these two bones get along with one another, that has been proven to be so important in the normal functioning of the brain and spinal cord. The word “Technic” is another way of spelling “technique”. Either word means “the way to get the job done, scientifically and in a short period of time”.

What is SOT?

The Sacro Occipital Technique, also called SOT, was developed by Major Bertrand DeJarnette, DO, DC in the late 1920s and has been researched and developed over the ensuing years. SOT is a commonly used chiropractic technique designed to reduce or eliminate pain or disorders in the craniospinal, TMJ,head, neck, back and pelvis, extremities (foot, ankle, knee, and hip as well as hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder) and in specific cases improve organ function.

One of DeJarnette’s great discoveries was a category system that recognizes that human structures have specific patterns of imbalance. By generalizing patients into three categories DeJarnette developed methods of determining three identifiable, yet interrelated, systems of body reaction. Through the use of specific indicators, location and correction of these body patterns a system of before and after treatment tests can be applied to evaluate need for care and whether the care was successful.

Category I deals with the primary respiratory mechanism between the sacrum and occiput. This relationship is described typically as pelvic torsion (twisting of the pelvis that makes it seem as if one leg is shorter than the other) with limited sacral nutation (tailbone movement). The spinal and cranial meningeal and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) systems function, to a degree, like a closed kinematic chain. Therefore the sacral or tailbone meningeal attachments and reduced movement can have an affect on the tissues above such as the spine with meningeal altered tensions, CSF stagnation, and altered vascular related function.

Category II involves over-motion or instability of the sacroiliac joint causing a dysfunctional relationship between the tailbone and pelvis. The sacroiliac weight-bearing joint sprain makes if difficult for the body to maintain itself against gravity and function at its optimum. It is common with this category to find low back imbalance which can affect the knees, shoulders, neck and TMJ with Category II patients. When Category II patients are not treated and the condition persists it can lead to a Category III type condition.

Category III is commonly associated with severe low back pain relating to sciatica or disc herniations. Patients often have difficulty standing up straight and can be leaning to one side and forward. They will have pain when they cough or sneeze, attempt to sit or arise from a seated position, or even just putting on their shoes. It is also possible to have numbness or weakness in the legs.

SOT offers very specific methods that are effective and specific for each individual patient’s needs. Each patient is treated individually and in some instances other SOT methods are needed to improve function of organs (CMRT – chiropractic manipulative reflex technique), cranial bone and TMJ (jaw), and foot, ankle, knee, hip as well as hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder function.

For more on CMRT click here.

Click here for more on Major Bertrand DeJarnette, DO, DC.

Click here for more on SOT Chiropractors and Dentists working together to help patients with TMJ disorders.

SOT cranial therapy is more extensive and varies from craniosacral therapy because SOT doctors are chiropractors trained as primary healthcare providers and can diagnose, treat, and refer for various patient presentations as compared to laypersons who have no such training or licensing.

Click here for more on SOT Cranial versus Craniosacral Therapy. click here.

How is SOT different than other chiropractic techniques?

SOT (Sacro Occipital Technique) is composed of highly accurate and effective clinical procedures. Dr. Major B. DeJarnette spent most of his life conducting clinical investigation into what works in chiropractic and what makes chiropractic work. Many of the experiments he first tried on himself so that he was aware of the results first hand. He also recruited others to be patients while he tested the procedures. By means of these repeated, peer-reviewed tests, he determined the true nature of the spinal subluxation* and how it could most efficiently be corrected.

He also determined when the correction of the spinal subluxation was not enough and devised visceral manipulation procedures. Visceral procedures are used to help normalize organ function without the use of drugs or surgery. SOT also recognizes the important role of normal cranial function in health and disease. The cranial bones and other cranial structures can cause central nervous system problems that are often overlooked or ignored by most other chiropractic systems.

*Spinal subluxation: A disorder of the spinal, pelvic or cranial bones which can adversely affect the circulation,fluctuation and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Spinal subluxations can also be associated with spinal joint connective tissue and muscle asymmetry, somatovisceral and viscerosomatic reflex activity, local pain, as well as other related phenomina.

Exactly what function of the body does SOT correct?

SOT concerns itself primarily with the cranial sacral respiratory mechanism. This is a wavelike oscillation in the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Although quite subtle, this motion is essential for the normal functioning of the brain and spinal cord, and thereby the rest of the nervous system and the rest of the body. It functions much like breathing air, in that it has a cyclic tightening and loosening phase. Ordinary respiration–breathing air in and out–also affects and can be used to normalize cranial sacral respiratory action. The normal function of the cranial sacral respiratory mechanism is recognized as a primary function of life in the body and must be normal if all functions of the body are to be normal. Like other chiropractic techniques, SOT also corrects abnormal spinal mechanics and any associated nerve problems. These can include back pain, headaches, dizziness, arm and leg pains.

Through the use of Chiropractic Manipulative Reflex Techniques (CMRT) your SOT practitioner can help normalize organ function in your body, including high blood pressure, digestive problems, urinary problems, toxicity, female reproductive dysfunction, etc. The list goes on and on. Many head-related symptoms can also be treated by your SOT practitioner, including, but not limited to: TMJ, Tinnitus, Headaches, Visual disturbances, Ear infections, etc.

Chiropractic Manipulative Reflex Technique (CMRT)

Will it make the pain go away?

Getting rid of pain is important. At all times, during an SOT adjustment, the comfort of the patient is considered. But eliminating or killing the pain is not the main goal of a chiropractic SOT adjustment. The true goal of an adjustment, and particularly an SOT adjustment, is to normalize the function of the entire body.

The central nervous system—the brain and spinal cord—is the avenue of approach. The brain and spinal cord are used for this purpose because all studies of the human body show that their function is the primary function of the body. They act to control all other functions of the body as well. So, normalization of this function is the primary goal. As this goal is obtained , the pain will go away. But elimination of pain is simply a side effect of normalizing the cranial sacral respiratory mechanism.

Will I have to keep coming back?

SOT is often found to obtain lasting results in a short time. These results are demonstrated as reduced pain and improved function in all parts of the body. A patient just starting with SOT care will often notice such a great improvement in a short time that they will feel they are completely “healed.” But with the precise diagnostic methods of SOT, sub-clinical problems (problems below the surface of a patient’s awareness) in the body can be detected even though they are not causing pain. So it is a wise investment on the patient’s part to stay with a program of care which detects problems before they start to hurt. The old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin applies: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Is this a proven method?

SOT has been shown to be clinically effective in thousands of offices worldwide. This method of health care is constantly improving and finding new proof of it’s effectiveness. The SOTO-USA website offers many research articles and SOTO-USA is leading the way in evidence based practice of SOT.

Many of the other chiropractic techniques use principles that were originally discovered and written by Dr. DeJarnette. The validity of Dr. DeJarnette’s research is proven every day by the practice of these techniques. As specialists in Sacro Occipital Technique, the chiropractors listed on this website are trained in SOT and diligently apply all of their skill, knowledge, and judgment to every adjustment they give. Their effort is to apply SOT as Dr. DeJarnette developed it. This is the proven method and the one that is most often found to be effective.

Will it make me healthier?

Yes. Any SOT adjustment will improve the functioning of the body, which is leads to healthier body as well as healthier form and function. Sometimes this improvement initially is subtle and may not be readily apparent to the doctor or the patient, but it is there. Since everyone is an individual it is very difficult to predict with a treatment how a patient’s particular body will respond. SOT practitioners have been found to be actively involved in both wellness and preventative care, which aside from the chiropractic treatment involves proper exercises, nutritious food, refraining from smoking cigarettes or excess alcohol intake and other activities that adversely affect your health. Clinical experience and scientific investigation over the years have shown that SOT is in the forefront of those procedures which improve health. For more information on SOT research please visit our SOT Literature page.

Do SOT Chiropractors do Craniosacral Therapy?

Yes, those SOT doctors who continue their training are well versed in cranial manipulative therapies. However a craniosacral therapist’s focus is generally on relaxing the person rather than actually making a clinical change in a specific type of clinical presentation. Craniosacral therapists are not doctors who are trained in diagnosing patients to discern when a patient may be having a serious condition needing specific care or a referral. It is for this reason their lack of training for differential diagnosis, being able to assess pathology, and know who and when to refer, has been questioned. In some instances this can create a gray area where patients needing care from a doctor are left in the hands of a layperson without the knowledge of primary healthcare practitioner or knowing how to appropriately triage (work together within a healthcare clinical setting).

Does SOT require nutritional changes?

Often. Any effort to restore health in this day and age on this planet requires improving nutritional intake. This is due to what is called “over-consumptive malnutrition.” Our current food supply is structured in such a way that people eat a lot of empty calories. So, specific nutritional supplements and changes are usually necessary.

Does the adjustment cause pain in my body?

No. SOT works to a great extent by specifically positioning the body to use the weight of gravity and the body to correct the body. This occurs because of an interaction between the specific position the body is in and the motion of the body caused by normal breathing. Many times the patient will feel very relaxed during the adjustment and may even take a nap. There may be some pain when specific points of correction are located. However, patients often report it feels like a “good pain” and is relieving rather than a “bad pain” and serves mostly to let the doctor and patient know that a point needing correction has been found.

Is there a chance of being hurt by the SOT adjustment?

The chance of injury during any chiropractic adjustment is very, very small. Recent research has shown the likelihood to be less than one in 6,000,000 treatments. Most of the injuries which have occurred in these studies have involved the neck and happened during non-SOT visits. The average chiropractor pays about $1,000 to $2, 000 per year for malpractice insurance. A medical doctor can pay $1,000 per week for malpractice insurance. This gives an accurate indication of the relative danger involved.

Studies have found that chiropractic care is an effective method of care for low back and neck pains and has been found at least as effective as NSAIDs (e.g., Aspirin, Tyelnol, Ibuprofin, etc.), yet safer by a factor of several hundred times. SOT is safe, gentle and an effective method of caring for body pain and dysfunction as well as in a program of wellness care or preventive health.

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All rights are reserved by SOTO-USA to the electronically printed material herein.

This SOT Information Page (What is SOT?) and all its contents herein are published by SOTO-USA solely for the purpose of education and should not be used by patients or unlicensed persons to diagnose or treat any condition.

Inside SOTO–USA

15th Annual Clinical Symposium

May 15-17, 2014
Redondo Beach, California

6th Annual SOT Research Conference







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Redondo Beach, California

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