I don’t think many people know that Chiropractic is only 125 years old. Relatively speaking, it’s like a child in 3rd grade in comparison to ancient practices like herbal therapy, for instance.
While Chiropractic continues to be misunderstood by mainstream medicine and society, it has promoted healing in millions of people worldwide at the same time. Did you know The Joint Chiropractic Corporation in its 540+ offices nationwide sees 14,000 new patients a month? These people received their first adjustment in this model.
Like in any relationship, if communication is not clear there will be discord and misunderstanding. For those who are skeptical about Chiropractic, I will say this: in severe spinal degeneration there IS an impingement of the nerve that exist between two spinal vertebrae, but since 1895 we said this was the case for every body. As our understanding grew, we squashed that model and focused on improved synaptic connections, analgesia, improved CSF flow, and eventually I think we will get into improved lymphatic flow, too. Our science needed maturing, and we adapted like any other healing art.
The spine, which has 4-10 joints depending on the level, are the area of interest for Chiropractors. The information our brain receives from joint movement is food for the central nervous system. Joint movement and the soft tissues that stretch as a result of it act as another set of eyes. Proprioception is a very important feedback in humans; this is why peripheral neuropathy (accompanied by numbness in feet) has taken many geriatric lives due to falls.
The often overlooked fact about the human body is that there is no other place in its anatomy that has intersegmental variability like the spine, which makes it prone to misalignments. See images of cadaver spines in Atlas of Common Subluxations of the Human Spine and Pelvis, by William J Ruch DC, for tons of proof of this. Every misaligned segment has evidence of degeneration in his research. EVERY ONE. Examples of what you’ll see is the following picture, on the right. Notice how the lowest disc (L5-S1) is thinner than the other ones? That’s the result of a bone that has been relatively posterior to its preferred position for a long time. The difference is in millimeters, but in our observation it preserves the health of the disc.
Chiropractic’s contribution to humanity has continued to expand, and believe it or not, it is now beyond the mechanistic example discussed above. The diplomate programs that sprouted in the 20th century, like Dr. Carrick’s Clinical Neuroscience program and the late Dr. Kessinger’s Internal Medicine program, are addressing the root cause of patient’s problems. The Pediatric Diplomate and Upper Cervical Diplomate programs are helping Chiropractors be specialists in their area of interest. A field of study that also peaks my interest is the Upper Cervical spine; the following is a picture of Atlas, the most unique bone in the spine that carries your head and allows you to say “yes” and “no”. The neurological density of the upper cervical spine makes the positioning of this joint crucial, hence why there are specialists for it.
The evidence-based model is a 3 legged stool: a) clinician observation b) research/studies and c) patient outcomes. Typically when an academic wants to see “the evidence,” they’re seeking double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized methodologies. If it doesn’t match their standard, they say it’s not good enough. That is incorrect and only one leg of the stool. Outside of pain studies, we have evidence that Chiropractic improves outcomes of colic (1), CSF flow (2), COPD (3), in co-management of otitis media, heart-rate variability (4), bite (jaw strength) (5), and glutathione peroxidase levels (6). Anecdotally, there are many midwives who swear that Chiropractic decreases delivery times (numbers unheard of, i.e. 3 hours in totality). I met one who won’t deliver a child unless the parents consent to weekly Chiropractic care from week 28 and on. That’s the kind of conviction new graduates from my alumni have about Chiropractic – it’s really cool.
Our research in fields outside of pain are in infancy, and I will actively be trying to change that in my career with my team. A couple ideas I have is to see if we can make people more insulin sensitive, the impact we have on sex-hormone binding globulin, and MTHFR enzyme kinetics. We may be young profession, but our growth spurts in the past two decades have been incredible, and it will be even more profound in our lifetime. Even though we are still relatively in the 3rd grade we are reliable, resilient, and inspired. I am proud to call myself a Doctor of Chiropractic.
Direct Every Angle,
PS. If reading this interested you in being a Chiropractor, please let me know! Send me a personal message on my Instagram, Facebook, or click on the “contact” tab of this website. Tell me a little bit about you, and a recent photo. I want to document this count as I go. I’d be happy to talk.
(1) Miller JE, Newell D, Bolton JE. Efficacy of Chiropractic manual therapy on infant colic: a pragmatic single-blind, randomized controlled trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. Oct 2012; 35(8):600-7; Carnes D, Plunkett A, Ellwood J, Miles C. Manual therapy for unsettled, distress and excessively crying infants: a systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ open. 2018;8(1): e019040.
(2) Damadian RV, Chu D. The possible role of cranio-cervical trauma and abnormal CSF hydrodynamics in the genesis of multiple sclerosis. Physiol Chem Phys Med NMR. 2011;41:1-17. PMID: 21970155.
(3) Wearing J, Beaumont S, Forbes D, Brown B, Engel R. The Use of Spinal Manipulative Therapy in the Management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2016;22(2):108–14.
(4) Zhang J, Dean D, Nosco D, Strathopulos D, Floros M. Effect of chiropractic care on heart rate variability and pain in a multisite clinical study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2006 May;29(4):267-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2006.03.010. PMID: 16690380.
(5) Haavik H, Özyurt M, Niazi I, Holt K, Nedergaard R, Yilmaz G, et al. Chiropractic Manipulation Increases Maximal Bite Force in Healthy Individuals. Brain Sciences. 2018;8(5):7
(6) Kolberg C, Horst A, Moraes MS, Duarte FCK, Riffel APK, Scheid T, et al. Peripheral Oxidative Stress Blood Markers in Patients With Chronic Back or Neck Pain Treated With High-Velocity, Low-Amplitude Manipulation. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2015;38(2):119–29.