Chiropractic patients often experience the phenomenon of retracing, which is a healing process as old physical and/or emotional energies, diseases, pain, or other symptoms “come to the surface” after your subluxations are corrected.

Some Examples of Retracing:

After a correction feelings of lightness and happiness surface and the patient begins to laugh. Or, the reverse occurs and the person begins to cry, even though they might not feel sad. Health is returning, but suddenly the original symptoms return and then clear up as quickly as they appeared.

Some patients externalize or release old toxins or poisons after an adjustment. This may include a rash or other skin condition, diarrhea, a fever, cough, mucus or some other “cleansing” reaction. These conditions are usually quite short-lived.

Retracing may not occur immediately after an adjustment, but may occur later that evening (or a few nights later) as patients report more, different or vivid dreams. Some patients say they don’t remember having any dreams because their sleep was uncharacteristically deep.

Don’t Worry, It’s good for you:

No matter what happens, remain a little detached and enjoy the show. Your body and mind are healing and whatever happens is good for you.

Retracing experiences can be both physically and emotionally quite intense. In such instances it is often difficult to see the experience as part of the healing process. Patients going through a particularly intense retracing pattern may feel as if they have had a serious relapse or are perhaps even getting worse.

Please let us know what retracing you may be experiencing because although retracing usually passes relatively quickly, patients have been known to terminate their care as a result of it. Such patients are cheating themselves of complete recovery.

Retracing in Other Healing Arts:

The phenomenon of retracing has long been recognized by the chiropractic profession[i] and other healing arts. Practitioners of various forms of body-work including Rolfing, shiatsu and massage therapy, have long noticed their clients experiencing “flashbacks” as they release energy long trapped in their bodies.

CranioSacral™ therapy, developed by John Upledger, a doctor of osteopathy, uses the terms “unwinding” and “somato-Emotional release” to describe this phenomenon. As Dr. Upledger writes:

Body tissues (especially connective tissues) possess a memory. When an injuring force occurs, the tissue which receives the force is changed. Perhaps it retains the energy of impact…The human body then either dissipates that energy and returns to normal; or the body somehow localizes the impact energy and walls it off. After the energy of the injury has been effectively isolated, the body adapts to this area. Energy (electrical, magnetic, prana, Qi or your own personal preference) is then forced to move around this area rather than through it…. When the original injury is discovered, the repressed emotional components of the somatic injury frequently and concurrently release.[ii]


Constantine Hering, a homeopathic researcher codified the laws of retracing and it is known as Hering’s Law or “The Law of Cure” which states that as retracing occurs symptoms will move from:

  • Interior to exterior;
  • The most vital to the least vital organs; and
  • In reverse order from that in which the symptoms appeared.

According to Dr. Hering, true healing only occurs if there is retracing: “Only such patients remain well and are really cured who have been rid of their symptoms in the reverse order of their development.”[iii]


Psychotherapists have also noticed “retracing”, calling it progressive abreactive regression or PAR.[iv] It is considered a phase you go through as part of the movement towards healing and wholeness. As individuals “move out to new behaviors and accomplishments… they turn inward to experience fears and dysfunctional programs that need to be worked out.”[v] PAR appears normally in human affairs as a part of growth at all levels. An example of a person experiencing PAR is one who gets a long-deserved promotion and begins to be troubled by feelings of incompetence. Or an artist who is suddenly recognized and instead of finding exhilaration, becomes depressed.

Retracing and Medicine?

Retracing seems to occur with healing systems that permit the body to express and rebalance itself. Retracing is uncommon in standard medical practice because medicine tends to suppress disease and mask symptoms. This may be dangerous. For example, antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as acetaminophen and most other drugs are all considered to suppress symptoms and drive disease deeper into the body.

Retracing is part of your healing journey. It may open the door to a deeper understanding of your unique issues. Retracing can help you open your heart and mind to some of life’s deeper healing mysteries.

[i] Stephensen RW. Chiropractic Textbook. Davenport, IA: Palmer School of Chiropractic. 1927;98-99.

[ii] Upledger J, Vredevoogd JD. Craniosacral Therapy. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press. 1983:251.

[iii] Coulter HL. Homoeopathic Science & Modern Medicine. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. 1980:24.

[iv] Stein A. Comprehensive family therapy. In R. Herink (Ed.), The Psychotherapy Handbook. New York: New American Library. 1980:204-207.

[v] Kirschner DA, Kirschner S. Comprehensive Family Therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel. 1986:18-19.


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