Chiropractic Co-Management of Pre & Post-Spine Surgical Cases
By: Matt Erickson DC, FSBT
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Ashraf Ragab, MD, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon
Reference: Erickson M., Studin M., Ragag A. (2019) Chiropractic Co-Management of Pre and Post-Surgical Cases, American Chiropractor 41(9), 34, 36,38-40
A report on the scientific literature
When a patient presents in a chiropractic office and has clinical signs of either radiculopathy (nerve root compression) at the neural canal or central canal regions or any myelopathic findings (cord compression with ensuing neurological deficit distal to the level of the lesion), immediate referral for an MRI should be considered. Based upon your clinical findings, triage then ensues as a result of creating a clinically driven diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. In a smaller percentage of cases, it will be discovered that the patient has a condition that requires a referral to a spine surgeon or a pain management provider. Regardless of where the patient is directed, having the patient fully worked up (examination, x-rays and advanced imaging) before the referral takes place is an important aspect of what the Doctor of Chiropractic can and should do and is within the lawful scope of practice within all 50 states and the United States territories.
Among those patients referred to the spine surgeon, some will not require or be a candidate for surgery. This is an area where a Doctor of Chiropractic especially with post-graduate training in Primary Spine Care and spinal biomechanical engineering, can be a big help to the surgeon by ensuring that a higher portion of the referred patients presents with the condition that likely requires the surgeon’s services. By triaging those patients who more likely needs the spine surgeon or pain management doctor’s services, it allows the specialist to save time on screening patients in the clinic who do not need their services and instead, it allows them to spend more time performing medically necessary spine-related procedures which allows patients to be taken care of more efficiently.
In the event a patient does not require surgery, unless there is a contraindication to correcting a patient’s neuro-musculo-biomechanical failure leading to structural imbalance, the Doctor of Chiropractic can co-manage the patient with the pain management provider. For the pain management provider, they may recommend various pain management procedures like a spinal epidural injection, a medial branch block or a facet injection. And given that pain management providers don’t focus on spinal biomechanics, but the Doctor of Chiropractic does, for most patients, this collaborative approach is ideal for better patient outcomes.
In patients who do require surgery, the treatment plan can be as simple as the referral to the spine surgeon. This however brings the question, “What is the Doctor of Chiropractic’s role in managing patients before and after surgery?”
In some cases, immediate surgery may be required. This would be the case where the patient has a spinal cord injury like myelomalacia-which is regarded as softening of the spinal cord due to damaged neural tissue that fills in with a glial scar. A glial scar, according to Silver and Miller (2004, February) “consists predominately of reactive astrocytes [star-shaped glial cells-cells without neurons, in the brain or spinal cord] and proteoglycans [molecules made of sugar and proteins]” (p. 146). Further, myelomalacia forms with pressure on the spinal cord which may be due to biomechanical failure and ensuing cord pressure in post-trauma cases. Immediate surgery may also be required with a disc extrusion (a type of disc herniation) which presents with myelopathic findings (ensuing neurological deficit distal to the site of the spinal cord lesion following trauma) and in patients with an advanced nerve root compression leading to pain, numbness, tingling and weakness into the upper or lower extremity at the level the nerve root has been compressed.
In other patients however, while surgery may be indicated, the Doctor of Chiropractic can work to improve the patient’s biomechanical balance before surgical intervention. This is another area a Primary Spine Care trained Doctor of Chiropractic has the additional post-graduate training to co-manage this type of case. Regardless, these considerations must be coordinated with the spine surgeon if surgery is required. Sagittally balancing the spine for better patient surgical outcomesas reported by Makhni, Shillingfor, Latatta Hyun and Kim (2018), “Adult spinal deformity with sagittal imbalance is associated with significant pain, disability, as well as directly and negatively influence health-related quality of life scores. The spine surgeon has to understand the whole global and regional alignment changes after sagittal imbalance to address the multiplanar deformity. Restoration of global alignment and minimization of complications through various surgical options can successfully improve the pain and function of spinal deformity patients” (pp. 176-177).
Importance of Sagittal Balance
Sagittally balancing the lumbar spine is further supported in an article published on Helia.com related to lectures on the outcomes of lumbar spine surgery about sagittal balance, Hu (2016, para 3) reported, “Surgical outcomes for spine surgery are improved when spinal, pelvic and hip alignment is considered in both degenerate and deformity cases, and how we better understand these will help us better improve outcomes for our patients” (https://www.healio.com/spine-surgery/lumbar/news/print/spine-surgery-today/%7B54ac5ca2-7939-407d-96a5-31fa9c0fc904%7D/proper-sagittal-balance-may-correlate-with-better-surgical-outcomes).
Hu (2016) also reported, “Sagittal imbalance in a patient can negatively affect the outcomes of a surgical procedure. But, how extensive the surgery required is to correct the imbalance must be carefully considered for the individual patient” (para. 4). r. LeHuec (2016) added, “Sagittal balance is an active phenomenon for patients. “The best course of action is to strive to achieve sagittal balance in patients” (para. 8).
In a study by
Finally, in an article by Yeh, Lee, Chen, Yu, Liu, Peng, Wang, and Wu, (2018) they concluded, “The results of this study support previous findings that functional outcomes are closely associated with sagittal radiographic parameters in the patients with the degenerative thoracolumbar spinal disease who received long-segment fusion. The achievement of global and regional sagittal alignment balance is a crucial factor for improved postoperative functional outcomes” (p. 1361).
According to a publication titled “A Detailed Guide to Your Surgery and The Recovery Process” by the Johns Hopkins Spine Service (n.d., p. 16), “Walking is the best activity you can do for the first 6 weeks after surgery. Further, there will be “restrictions for the first 6 weeks after surgery,” the patient should “avoid twisting and bending” and avoid lifting, pushing or pulling objects greater than 5 lbs” (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopaedic-surgery/_documents/patient-information/patient-forms-guides/JHULumbSpineSurgeryGuide.pdf).
From the Johns Hopkins publication (n.d.), patients are advised to call the surgeon’s office to make a 6-week follow-up appointment. At that appointment, x-rays will be performed to evaluate how the surgical area is healing. If everything checks out, “patients may be given a handout of lower back exercises to begin at home.” Patients may also be provided a prescription for outpatient physical therapy, but that is dependent upon the patient’s recovery (p. 24).
When physical therapy begins, the goal is to gradually improve strength, flexibility and endurance. The patient may also receive help with activities of daily living like gate training (learning how to walk properly again). However, while beneficial, physical therapy is limited in that a physical therapist does not focus diagnosing and correcting the spinal biomechanics. Further, a physical therapist is not licensed to manage the patients on a physician level. This is where the Doctor of Chiropractic is needed as part of the long-term recovery solution.
Following the initial 6-week evaluation, according to Hayeri and Tehranzadeh (2009, para. 21), “Evaluation of the postoperative spine usually begins with conventional radiographs in AP and lateral projections. It usually takes 6 to 9 months for a solid bone fusion to be established radiographically.” Hayeri and Tehranzadeh (2009, para. 20) also reported, “Postoperative imaging plays an important role in the assessment of fusion and bone formation. It is also helpful to detect instrument failure and other suspected complications. It is necessary to compare current images with previous studies to identify any subtle changes and disease progression” (https://appliedradiology.com/articles/diagnostic-imaging-of-spinal-fusion-and-complications).
Hayeri and Tehranzadeh (2009) added, Currently, computed tomography (CT) with multiplanar reconstruction (MPR) is considered the modality of choice for imaging bony details and assessing osseous formation and hardware position despite artifact formation.” (para. 22).
It is important to understand, patients don’t need to wait 6-9 months to start treatment with the Doctor of Chiropractic. About 6 weeks following surgery, if the patient is healed enough to begin physical therapy, the patient should be able to tolerate gentle mechanical corrections above and below the level of the surgical fusion. However, the patient will need to first be cleared to do so by the surgeon. Doing this can help in the patient’s recovery process and prepare the patients spine for a more comprehensive correction process once the patient is cleared. It can also help to shorten the time needed for correction.
The Doctor of Chiropractic (trained in Primary Spine Care) therefore, can take on a critical and important role in the management of patients before and after spine surgery. Further, unlike the physical therapist, the Doctor of Chiropractic having physician class status, is licensed to fully diagnose, manage and treat biomechanical pathology of the spine when indicated.
Primary Spine Care
Despite this, not all Chiropractic Doctors have additional post-graduate training or experience to manage complex spine cases. This is no different than a Medical Doctor having just completed medical school not being able to function in the capacity of a specialist short of residency and/or a fellowship program.
One solution that provides the Doctor of Chiropractic with the additional training and experience to manage complex spine cases is an extensive post-graduate training program in Primary Spine Care as previously discussed. Currently, there is a growing body of Chiropractic Doctors through an extensive post-graduate program offered through the Academy of Chiropractic, that are becoming qualified in Primary Spine Care that is well prepared to take on the role in managing patients with complex spine related issues (https://www.academyofchiropractic.com/component/content/article.html?id=1224).
The concept of the Doctor of Chiropractic taking on the role of a Primary Spine Care provider was discussed in an article by Erwin, Korpela and Jones (2013). The stated, “Chiropractors have the potential to address a substantial portion of spinal disorders; however the utilization rate of chiropractic services has remained low and largely unchanged for decades. Other health care professions such as podiatry/chiropody, physiotherapy and naturopathy have successfully gained public and professional trust, increases in the scope of practice and distinct niche positions within mainstream health care. Due to the overwhelming burden of spine care upon the health care system, the establishment of a ‘primary spine care provider’ may be a worthwhile niche position to create for society’s needs. Chiropractors could fulfill this role, but not without first reviewing and improving its approach to the management of spinal disorders” (p. 285).
In conclusion, the Doctor of Chiropractic has the foundational training to diagnose, manage and treat patients when indicated both before and after spinal surgery. However, with additional post-graduate training in Primary Spine Care, the Doctor of Chiropractic can obtain the necessary skills to manage more complex spine conditions which include coordinating care with the spine surgeon, pain management doctors and even a patient’s primary care doctor. With the current opioid crisis in the United States, there is a need for a front-line provider to lead in the management of non-surgical spine care and the Doctor of Chiropractic as a licensed physician is positioned to take on that role especially with additional training in Primary Spine Care.
CASE REPORT: Multiple cervical and lumbar disc herniations and ligamentous injury, post MVA treated successfully with conservative chiropractic treatment
Dennis Mutell D.C.
Abstract: This case report demonstrates the use of conservative chiropractic care in the treatment of cervical and lumbar disc injuries as well as ligamentous instability in the cervical and lumbar spine of a person injured in a double impact automobile collision.
Diagnostic studies include complete case history, physical examination, including orthopedic and neurological exams, radiographic examination, including flexion extension views of the cervical and lumbar spine and MRI of the cervical and lumbar spine.
Introduction: The patient, a 48-year-old male who reports he was a passenger in a hotel shuttle van which was struck on the passenger side by another automobile, followed by a full-frontal impact of the shuttle van hitting a pole. The patient was wearing a seatbelt. From the scene of the accident, he was transported by ambulance to a local hospital emergency department where he had x-rays and a CT scan of the head taken. He received contusions to the chest, legs and shin. He was released with prescription medication and told to follow up with his doctor when he got home if he continued to have problems.
Patient complaints were as follows: At the time of the accident, the patient noted he was dizzy and had tingling and numbness in the extremities. He complained of generalized ache, pain and stiffness in the neck and back. He also suffered from confusion.
At the time of his initial evaluation at my office, approximately 10 days post-accident, he complained of neck pain and stiffness which increased with physical activity and decreased with rest and medication. Neck pain was referred to the occipital region, across the shoulders and into the upper thoracic. He reported pain into the thoracic region, described as tightness and stiffness, which also increased with physical activity and improved with rest. His low back was his primary area of complaint - with the most significant and consistent pain that increased significantly with weight-bearing activity and only improved with lying down. Patient had knee stiffness and pain on the right and soreness in both knees and ankles. There was notable bruising of the chest and a contusion. Patient continued to have symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury, consisting of feeling dazed and confused with some amnesia following the accident. Patient continues to have headaches and brain fog.
Prior treatment: Patient received a prescription for anti-inflammatories and a muscle relaxer from the emergency department. He was not working and resting as much as possible and utilizing hot showers.
Past medical history: Patient reports he was involved in an automobile collision 2 to 3 years prior to this collision and received injuries to his neck and back. He had a brief course of chiropractic and physical therapy care. He was released from care without any restrictions or residual complaints. He was working without restriction since being released from that accident and was asymptomatic prior to this accident.
Clinical findings: Patient is 48 years old, 5’11” and 235 pounds. Blood pressure is 130/80 pulse is 75. Patient exhibited no swelling or edema to the extremities. Cranial nerves were intact. Patient appeared antalgic and guarded in his movements.
Physical findings: Palpation revealed significant pain and tenderness in the suboccipital region as well as guarding spasm in the cervical, upper thoracic and lumbar region. Patient had visible restrictions of range of motion in the cervical and lumbar spine, associated with pain. Patient had a positive Foramen Compression Test and Jackson’s Compression Test bilaterally. Manual cervical traction provided some relief in the C1 occipital region, but increased pain along the side the neck and out across the top of the shoulders. Patient could not perform an Apply’s Scratch Test associated with pain in the upper thoracic region. He had a positive SOTO Halls Test for pain in the cervical region into the upper thoracic region. Straight leg raise test was restricted at 60° bilaterally for increased pain in lower back into the buttock region. Patient had a positive Kemps Test bilaterally for joint pain and muscle pain. McMurray’s Test was positive the right knee. The patient was unable to obtain full flexion of the right knee.
Due to the visual restrictions of range of motion in the cervical and lumbar spine, a dual inclinometer range of motion study was ordered and performed of the cervical and lumbar spine, demonstrating loss range of motion.
Neurological testing: Dermatome testing revealed normal sensation in the upper and lower extremity to light touch and pinwheel. Deep tendon reflexes were found to be +2 bilaterally of the upper and lower extremity, except for a diminished left bicep reflex. Manual muscle testing of the upper and lower myotomes revealed 5/5 strength bilaterally, except for 4/5 of the left deltoid muscle and diminished grip strength of the left hand.
Based on the patient’s subjective symptoms and examination findings, x-rays of the cervical and lumbar spine, including flexion extension views were ordered. I personally reviewed these images.
Cervical: Significant loss of the normal lordosis.
Retrolisthesis is noted at C-4 in relationship to C-5 on the neutral lateral view.
Flexion shows significant fixation to normal movement. C-3 demonstrates anterolisthesis in relation to C-4 and it is noted that C-4 shows realignment in relationship to C-5, which is indicative of ligamentous laxity and injury.
Extension demonstrates significant fixation to normal movement. There is further retrolisthesis of C-4 in relationship to C-5 extension.
Small osteoarthritic spur is noted on the anterior inferior aspect of C-4 and posterior disc thinning.
Lumbar: Biomechanical misalignment is noted as rotation of L1, L2 and L3 to the right. Patient has a significant external rotation to the left ilium and the right ilium appears elevated in relationship to the left.
Osteophyte is noted of the anterior superior aspect of L4 associate with significant posterior disc thinning.
Retrolisthesis of L-3 in relation to L-4 on the neutral lateral image.
Flexion reveals significant fixation to normal movement and realignment of L-3 in relation to L-4 flexion - indicating some degree of ligamentous laxity.
Number 1: Cervical neutral lateral view demonstrating retrolisthesis of C4 in respect to C5 and C5 and respect to C6, indicating ligament laxity.
Number 2: Cervical flexion view demonstrating realignment of C-4 in respect to C5 and C5 and respect to C6, indicating ligament laxity. Normal movement into cervical flexion is significantly restricted.
Number 3: Cervical extension view demonstrating retrolisthesis of C4 in respect to C5, indicating ligament laxity. Significant restriction to normal cervical extension.
Cervical MRI without contrast: Following my personal review of the MRI images, my impressions are as follows:
Cervical spinal cord appears normal in signal intensity. Generalized arthritic changes to the facet joints throughout the cervical spine.
C-2 / C-3: High intensity signal in the posterior aspect of the disc, which is visualized as a radial tear.
C-3 / C-4: Disc protrusion on the left causing stenosis of the left neural canal, resulting in contact with the C-4 nerve root.
C-4 / C-5: Disc bulge associated with marginal osteophytes resulting in mild restriction of the neural canals, bilaterally.
C-5 / C-6: Disc bulge associated with marginal osteophytes resulting in mild restriction of the neural canals, bilaterally.
C-6 / C-7: Normal appearance of the vertebral discs.
C-7 / T-1: Normal appearance of the vertebral disc.
Lumbar MRI without contrast: Following my personal review of the MRI images, my impressions are as follows:
Conus terminates at L1 and appears normal in position. Generalized arthritic changes of the lumbar facet joints and mild thickening of the ligament of flava from the mid to lower lumbar.
L-1 / L-2: Vertebral disc appears normal with no central canal or neural canal stenosis.
L-2 / L-3: Vertebral disc protrusion on the left causing mild neural canal stenosis on the left.
L-3 / L-4: Vertebral disc protrusion on the right resulting in stenosis of the right neural canal with associated high signal intensity in the posterior right disc indicative of recent trauma. Disc protrusion is superimposed upon a bulging disc resulting in some left neural canal stenosis as well.
L-4 / L-5: Left lateral disc protrusion resulting in stenosis of the left neural canal. Disc protrusion superimposed upon a bulging disc which results in mild right neural canal stenosis.
L-5 / S-1: Bulging disc associated with osteophyte formation resulting in bilateral neural canal stenosis.
Number 4: Lumbar neutral lateral demonstrating loss of lumbar lordosis in the upper lumbar spine with slight retrolisthesis of L2 in relationship to L3 and L3 in relationship to L4, indicating ligament laxity.
Number 5: Cervical MRI without contrast. C2 – C3 demonstrates high intensity signal in the posterior aspect of the disc which is visualized as a radial tear on the axial view.
Number 6: Cervical MRI without contrast. Left disc protrusion causing stenosis of the left neural canal resulting in contact to the C4 nerve root.
Number 7: Lumbar MRI without contrast. Disc protrusion on the right resulting in stenosis of the right neural canal with associated high signal intensity in the posterior the right disc indicative of recent trauma.
Diagnostic impression: Considering the patient’s history, physical examination findings, x-ray findings demonstrating ligamentous laxity in both the cervical and lumbar spine, MRI findings demonstrating the vertebral disc injuries involving the cervical and lumbar spine, an initial treatment plan, consisting of conservative chiropractic treatment was initiated.
Treatment: Following review of all diagnostic imaging, there were no contraindications to cervical and lumbar spinal adjustments. Patient received chiropractic spinal adjustments to the cervical and lumbar spine in association with at home and work recommendations, as well as instructions for the utilization of ice, TENS and an at home exercise program to improve flexibility and strength.
Patient was referred to an interventional pain management medical doctor for evaluation and possible recommendations. The medical doctor initially recommended epidural steroid injections and possible consideration for facet joint ablation in both the cervical and lumbar spine. Due to the patient finding some relief with initial chiropractic care, the patient elected to continue with chiropractic care without receiving the injections. At the six week follow up with the pain management doctor, the patient experienced enough improvement and symptomatic relief that the pain management doctor recommended he continue with conservative chiropractic care.
Discussion: Doctor of Chiropractic trained in MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanics, and qualified as primary spine care physicians, are capable to triage patients involved in automobile collisions resulting in injury. Through proper identification of the injuries, establishing a diagnosis and a treatment plan to address the injuries and evaluate for the need of co-management with medical providers a traumatically injured patient has the best chance for a return to function.
CHIROPRACTIC SPINAL ADJUSTMENT / MANIPULATION
Manipulation vs. Mobilization
Part 1 of 2
Matt Erickson DC, FSBT
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
A report on the scientific literature
Kinetically,spinal manipulation is defined as a high-velocity low amplitude (HVLA) thrust maneuver. According to Ernst and Harkness (2001), “SM (spinal manipulation) involves high velocity thrusts with either a long or short lever-arm, usually aimed at reducing pain and improving range of motion (p. 879).
Kinetics and kinematics of motion (sub-areas of biomechanics) were described by Evans and Breen (2006). “Kinetics is the branch of mechanics that deals with motion (of an object) under the action of given forces. This includes static (equilibrium) states in which no movement is occurring and dynamic states in which forces may vary as movement occurs” (p. 72). “Kinematics is the branch of mechanics that deals with motion (of an object) without reference to force or mass. With a few notable exceptions, most biomechanical studies of spinal manipulation have given scant attention to kinematics” (p. 73). Thus, kinetics is the study of the type of force used with spinal manipulation while kinematics is the study of the motion geometry of the thrust.
Respectfully, spinal manipulation performed by a doctor of chiropractic is a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA). From an insurance coding a billing perspective, a CSA is also called a chiropractic manipulative treatment (CMT). In part 2 of this series, we will detail the necessity for that language. In this paper (part 1 of 2), we will focus on the definition of spinal manipulation and the different outcomes desired by disparate professions. However, the terminology of a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment needs to be considered at all times when referencing spinal manipulation in this article.
Zinovy and Funiciello (2018, Sept. 17, para. 2) regarding spinal manipulation reported, “This high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) thrusts, also called chiropractic adjustments or osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMT), are carefully performed by applying enough force to push the spinal joint beyond the restricted range of motion with the goal of improving the joint’s function, increasing range of motion, and reducing pain. When a high-velocity manipulation is performed on the spine, it typically involves a cracking or popping sound that can be heard. Some people report feeling relief or enjoying the cracking sound, whereas others do not” (https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/manual-manipulation-and-mobilization-chronic-stiff-neck).
Conversely, spinal mobilization is kinetically defined as a low-velocity, low-amplitude force (LVLA) non-thrust maneuver used to help relieve pain, improve motion and restore function. Zinovy and Funiciello (2018, Sept. 17) regarding spinal mobilization wrote, “These low-velocity, low amplitude (LVLA) manipulations gradually work the spinal joints through their well-tolerable ranges of motion rather than forcing them beyond the normal limit. The practitioner’s hands gently move the vertebra and stretch each spinal level being worked. Spinal mobilization usually does not involve a neck-cracking sound” (para. 3).
Differentiating Spinal Manipulation Amongst Providers
In a United States-based review (which derived from an analysis of 67 articles and 9 books or textbooks) by Shekelle, Adams, Chassin, Hurwitz, Phillips and Brook (1991, P. 3), the authors stated “A recent analysis of a community-based sample of patients showed that chiropractors delivered 94% of all the manipulative care for which reimbursement was sought, with osteopaths delivering 4%, and general practitioners and orthopedic surgeons accounting for the remainder” (https://www.rand.org/pubs/reports/R4025z1.html).
In other words, DCs perform 94% of All spinal manipulations in the United States while Doctors of Osteopathy (DOs) perform 4% and subsequently, the remaining 2% of spinal manipulations are performed by Physical Therapists (PTs) and Medical Doctors (MDs).
Further, although Zinovy and Funiciello (2018, Sept. 17) reported the general goal of spinal manipulation is “improving the joint’s function, increasing range of motion, and reducing pain” (para. 2), beyond that, the intention of spinal manipulation amongst DCs, DOs and PTs is different. So, what is the difference?
Spinal Manipulation (CSA) According to DCs
In addition to improving joint function, increasing range of motion and reducing pain, spinal manipulation for DCs is about normalizing neuro-biomechanical biomechanical function and reducing neurological irritation to maintain optimal function of the nervous system. Petterman (2007) explained this is known as the Law of the Nerve (p. 168). DC’s more precisely regard spinal manipulation as a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment or chiropractic manipulative treatment (CMT). Andersson, Lucente, Davis, Kappler, Lipton and Leurgans (1999) reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, “The chiropractic approach is focused more on the nervous system and advocates adjustments of the spinal vertebrae to improve neurotransmission” (p. 1426).
Evans (2002), referring to the above images, described the cause of neuro-biomechanical dysfunction due to meniscoid entrapment as follows:
Meniscoid entrapment. 1) On flexion, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with It. 2) On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying "lesion" under the capsule. Pain occurs as a result of capsular tension, and extension is inhibited. 3) Manipulation of the joint involving flexion and gapping, reduces the impaction and opens the joint to encourage re-entry of the meniscoid into the joint space (4) [Realignment of the joint.] (p. 253)
Evans (2002) continued:
Bogduk and Jull reviewed the likelihood of intra-articular entrapments within zygapophyseal joints as potential sources of pain…Fibro-adipose meniscoid have also been identified as structures capable of creating a painful situation. Bogduk and Jull reviewed the possible role of fibro-adipose meniscoid causing pain purely by creating a tractioning effect on the zygapophyseal joint capsule, again after intra-articular pinching of tissue (p. 252). A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent the impaction of the meniscoid. The patient would tend to be more comfortable with the spine maintained in a flexed position, because this will disengage the meniscoid. Extension would therefore tend to be inhibited. This condition has also been termed a “joint lock” or “facet-lock,” the latter of which indicates the involvement of the zygapophyseal joint…
Evans (2002) further added, “An HVLAT manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment CSA], involving gapping of the zygapophyseal joint, reduces the impaction and opens the joint, so encouraging the meniscoid to return to its normal anatomic position in the joint cavity. This ceases the distension of the joint capsule, thus reducing pain” (p. 252-253).
When considering the neuro-biomechanical lesion, (or vertebral subluxation complex [VSC] as traditionally coined) in its entirety, we must consider the etiology as these forces can lead to complex patho-biomechanical components of the spine and supporting tissues. As a result, a neurological cascade can ensue that would further define the lesion beyond the inter-articulation entrapments.
Panjabi (2006) reported, “Abnormal mechanics of the spinal column has been hypothesized to lead to back pain via nociceptive sensors. The path from abnormal mechanics to nociceptive sensation may go via inflammation, biochemical and nutritional changes, immunological factors, and changes in the structure and material of the endplates and discs, and neural structures, such as nerve ingrowth into the diseased intervertebral disc. The abnormal mechanics of the spine may be due to degenerative changes in the spinal column and/or injury of the ligaments. Most likely, the initiating event is some kind of trauma involving the spine. It may be a single trauma due to an accident or microtrauma caused by repetitive motion over a long time. It is also possible that spinal muscles will fire in an uncoordinated way in response to sudden fear of injury, such as when one misjudges the depth of a step. All these events may cause spinal ligament injury” (p.668-669).
In short, chiropractors primarily use a very specific high-velocity, low-amplitude spinal manipulation/ or a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment to correct the neuro-biomechanical dysfunction and reduce the neurological irritation/interference.
Spinal Manipulation According to DOs
The outcome for DOs is to improve overall blood flow throughout the body. As written by Petterman (2007), this is known as the Law of the Artery (p. 168). This is further supported by Andersson et al., (1999) who wrote, “The focus of osteopathic medicine has been the need to optimize the blood circulation to maintain or restore health” (p. 1426).
Further, DO’s perform non-specific spinal manipulation which they regard as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). According to the American Osteopathic Association, “Through OMT, physicians manually apply a specific amount of pressure to different regions in the body. These techniques can help: Treat structural and tissue abnormalities, relieve joint restriction and misalignment, restore muscle and tissue balance and promote the overall movement of blood flow throughout the body (https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/osteopathic-manipulative-treatment/).
Spinal Manipulation According to PTs
Like DOs, PTs perform non-specific spinal manipulation that is regarded as a unique form of manual therapy that they call thrust joint manipulation (TJM). According to Puentedura, Slaughter, Reilly, Venturan and Young (2017), “Thrust joint manipulation (TJM) is defined as a high-velocity low-amplitude thrust technique which can be distinguished from other joint mobilization techniques that do not utilize a final thrust maneuver” (p. 74).
Historically, in 1920, spinal manipulation was first introduced in Britain to physical therapists by the Osteopathic profession. Paris (2000) reported, “Osteopathic medicine and surgery was founded by Andrew Taylor Still in 1874” (p. 68). Pettman (2007) reported, in 1892, Andrew Still established the American Osteopathic College in Kirksville, Missouri. Conversely, in 1897, DD Palmer opened Palmer College of Cure which is now known as Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport Iowa (168).
Pettman (2007) further reported:
“Two of Still’s original students, William Smith and J. Martin Littlejohn, were medical physicians from Scotland. Smith struck a deal with Still that if Still taught him osteopathy, he would teach Still’s students anatomy, greatly enhancing the scientific validity of this emerging profession.
Littlejohn would become the first dean of the College of Osteopathy in Kirksville. He would then go on to found the Chicago College of Osteopathy before returning to Britain and becoming the founder of the British College of Osteopathy in London in 1917.
Despite many frustrating attempts, Littlejohn could never get the English legislature to give osteopathy the same parity with medicine that was enjoyed by his American colleagues. Ironically, instead of behaving antagonistically, he chose to begin educating his fellow physicians and physical therapists in the art and science of spinal manipulation as of 1920.” (p. 169).
Conversely, the development of manipulation to the physical therapy profession in the United States occurred 40 years after being introduced to PTs in Britain in 1920. In a document on the history of manipulative therapy in the United States, Paris (2000) wrote, “Since the 1960s, physical therapists have developed their own body of knowledge in manipulation, emphasizing pain relief and enhanced physical function” (p. 66).
Farrell and Jensen (1992) added, “Physical therapy education has evolved considerably since 1970, when just a few programs included content and skills in "manipulative therapy"” (p. 845). Thus, physical therapists in the United States did not start developing knowledge of manipulation until the 1960s and few US PT programs taught manipulation in 1970.
PT’s Historical Confusion of Manipulation Vs. Mobilization
As already discussed, the development of spinal manipulation for PTs did not begin until the 1960s. Further, PTs did not have standardized terminology for manual therapy and often mobilization and manipulation were used interchangeably. Mintken, DeRosa, Little and Britt (2008) stated, “Seminal documents from noted professional associations and organizations, such as the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists, and the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapists, interchange such terms as manual therapy, mobilization, and manipulation with the implication often being that they are synonymous” (p. 51).
Mintken et al., (2008) added, “Physical therapists in particular are not immune to the consequences of this history. John Mennell, MD stated that physical therapists used a confusing array of terms that “cloud the issue by talking about degrees of manipulation using such terms as articulation and mobilization leading up to manipulation.” Such a woeful lack of language specificity ultimately precludes any ability to compare and contrast the intervention or the outcome and minimizes any opportunity to ultimately discern effective from ineffective” (p. 51).
Mintken et al., (2008) continued, “Furthermore, despite Mennell’s caution appearing many years ago, one could argue that the clarity of language concerning manipulation has not improved, but in fact has worsened” (p. 51).
To address this issue Mintken et al., (2008) published their article to standardize manipulation terminology. Mintken et al., (2008) stated, “In February 2007, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists formed a task force to standardize manual therapy terminology, starting with the intervention of manipulation. The ultimate goal of this task force was to create a template that has the potential to be used internationally by the community of physical therapists in order to standardize manual therapy nomenclature” (pg. 50). Thus, you can see that as late as 2007, it was being reported that manipulation and mobilization in the physical therapy profession were still poorly differentiated and the terminology was not standardized.
The Mintken et al., (2008) reported, “The aim of the task force created in February 2007 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists was to propose a model for standardized terminology to describe manipulative techniques as simply and clearly as possible in language that is understandable to all clinicians, regardless of individual clinical practices or schools of thought” (p. 52-53).
DC’s perform 94% of All spinal manipulations in the United States. Although PTs began learning manipulation in Britain in 1920 through the osteopathic profession, the physical therapy profession did not begin developing spinal manipulation for PTs in the United States until the 1960s and in 1970 few schools included content and skills in manipulation. The purpose of this statement is not to diminish a PT trained to perform non-specific spinal manipulation, but rather to highlight the limited non-specific use and true infancy among PTs in performing spinal manipulation in the US.
Finally, spinal manipulation is kinematically regarded as HVLA and not synonymous with spinal mobilization which is regarded as LVLA. Further, while spinal manipulation acts to improve joint function, increase range of motion, and reduce pain, beyond this, it’s clinical intention is different amongst DCs (CSA: a specific form of spinal manipulation to normalize neuro-biomechanical biomechanical function and removing nerve interference), DOs (OMT: a non-specific form of spinal manipulation with intention on improving blood flow) and PTs (TJM: a non-specific form of spinal manipulation regarded as a unique form of manual therapy).
In part 2 of this series, we will further differentiate spinal manipulation amongst DCs, DOs and PTs and how it is a physician-based service for DCs and DO’s and a form of manual therapy for PTs. Moreover, we will explain in greater depth how spinal manipulation provided by DCs is regarded as specific while among DOs and PTs it is regarded as non-specific. Finally, we will discuss how a DCs intention in performing a specific CSA follow a salutogenic model (what keeps one healthy or well) while the intention of PTs and DOs in performing a non-specific spinal manipulation called TJM or OMT respectfully follows a pathogenic model(what causes disease or makes one ill).
Mark Studin DC
A report on the scientific literature
Cervical artery dissection (CAD) is a major source of cervical ischemia in all ages, and can lead to various clinical symptoms such as neck pain, headache, Horner’s Syndrome (paresis of the eye) and cranial nerve palsy. An underlying arteriopathy, which is often genetically encoded, is believed to have a role in the development of CAD.1 There have been case studies and low-quality published literature that attempt to link chiropractic care and CAD. This type of reporting often reports dogma and as in this case, is devoid of high-quality standards of scientific examination and lacking a complete set of facts.2
When considering CAD, both the internal carotid and vertebral arteries must be considered. Dissection of one or both can lead to serious complications but can also be asymptomatic. Thrombolytic stroke is typically in the old, while cervical artery dissection causes stroke in young and middle-aged patients. Only 1-2% of ischemic strokes are caused by CAD, but in younger patients, 10-25% are caused by CAD. The overall incidence of CAD is 2.3-5 patients per 100,000; the mean age is 44 years old. CAD is rare beyond 65 years old.3, 4
Although headaches, migraine headaches, minor trauma, neck pain, and inflammatory and connective tissue diseases have been thought to play a role in CAD, patients with CAD (with or without trauma) likely have an underlying arteriopathy, an inflammatory process or structural instability of the arteries that lead to dissection. A biopsy-proven study, Cervical Artery Dissections: A Review, conducted by JJ Robertson and A. Koyfman in 2016, shows structural differences in the arterial walls of patients with spontaneous CAD and in patients who have sustained major trauma and a positive association with dissection and kinking and coiling of the internal carotid artery, which suggests an underlying predisposition.4
In 2001-2002, the number of visits to medical primary care providers and chiropractors in the US and Canada was 10.2 million. Visits to primary care providers accounted for 80% of the total, while visits to chiropractors accounted for 12%. 5
The most prevalent diagnoses in chiropractic care involve neck and back pain. 5,6 And the most common treatment at a chiropractic office is a spinal high-velocity, low-amplitude manipulation, commonly known as a chiropractic spinal adjustment.
A Meta-analysis of 253 articles on chiropractic care and cervical artery dissection by Church, et. Al.,3 3 showed that neck pain and headaches are found in approximately 80% of CAD patients. Neck pain and headaches are also common symptoms in patients with cervical artery dissection. They concluded, “There is no convincing evidence to support a causal link between chiropractic manipulation and cervical arterial dissection.” which is a correlation, but not causally related. The most prevalent co-founder is neck pain and that demographic typically visits a chiropractor. When you consider the association between chiropractic visits vs. medical primary care visits with patients who experienced a CAD, the utilization was similar, yet because chiropractors treat neck pain there appears to be a dogmatic conclusion that chiropractic is the causative factor for dissection despite the lack of evidence.
The evidence, as determined by Church et. Al. is based upon the Grading Recommendation Assessment Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system of rating quality of evidence and grading strength in systematic reviews. Those reviews ranged from high quality of evidence to very low quality of evidence.7
Church et. Al.3 found that the quality of the body of data using the GRADE criteria revealed that it fell within the “very low” category. Also, they found no evidence for a causal link between chiropractic care and CAD. Perhaps the greatest threat to the reliability of any conclusions drawn from these data is that together they describe a correlation but not a causal relationship, and any unmeasured variable is a potential confounder. As previously discussed, the most likely potential confounder in this case is neck pain with no causal evidence.
Cassidy et al. (2008) studied the occurrence of vertebral basilar artery (VBA) stroke events in Ontario, Canada over nine years with a database representing almost 110 million person-years (12.2 million people, studied over 9 years, equals 110 million person-years).8 The purpose of this study was to investigate if the rates of VBA stroke, which is sometimes caused by CAD, were higher in patients treated by chiropractors than in those treated by medical primary care doctors. The premise was that if the rate of VBA stroke was higher with chiropractic care, then one could logically say there were a cause and effect relationship between chiropractic care and VBA strokes.
The results were conclusive: There was no greater likelihood of a patient experiencing a stroke following a visit to his/her chiropractor than there was after a visit to his/her primary care physician. Cassidy et al wrote:
“We found no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke with associated chiropractic care compared to primary care.” Cassidy et al. concluded that overall, 4% of stroke patients had visited a chiropractor within 30 days of a stroke while 53% of stroke patients had visited their medical primary care providers within the same time frame. The authors suggest that because neck pain is a common symptom of CAD, patients visit their doctors with the onset of symptoms, prior to the development of a full-blown stroke scenario. Because the association between VBA stroke and visits to both chiropractic and medical physicians is the same, there appears to be no increased risk of VBA stroke from chiropractic care. In fact, the incident of chiropractic vs. medical care was substantially lower in certain situations based upon the data.8
Cervical artery dissection occurs rarely, yet often creates significant adverse outcomes to patients. Unfortunately, there has been a bias in the medical community, incorrectly linking chiropractic care and CAD. But the evidence is mounting that there is no causal relationship between them. With literature bordering on dogma devoid of the facts in high-quality studies. 12.2 million people study over 9 years equaling 110 million person-years conclude no causal relationship doing chiropractic care and cervical artery dissection.
Chiropractors Reduce Costs by 40% if the 1st Option for Spine
DC’s Would Save the Healthcare System 1.86 Trillion Dollars Over 10 Years
By: Matt Erickson, DC, FSBT
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
A report on the scientific literature
Citation: Erickson M., Studin M (2019) Chiropractors Reduce Costs by 40% if the 1st Option for Spine, American Chiropractor 41(8) 38, 40-43
Currently, our country is facing a health care crisis not only with respect to the opioid epidemic, but also due the fact our health care costs in the US have skyrocketed out of control. According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), National Health Expense (NHE) fact sheet (2017), “NHE grew 3.9% to $3.5 trillion in 2017, or $10,739 per person, and accounted for 17.9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).” It was also predicted by CMS (2017) that “Under current law, national health spending is projected to grow at an average rate of 5.5 percent per year for 2018-27 and to reach nearly $6.0 trillion by 2027”(https://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/nhe-fact-sheet.html).
In a study from data primarily from 2013-2016, Papanicolas, Woskie and Jha (2018) reported, “The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other nation, substantially outpacing even other very high-income countries. However, despite its higher spending, the United States performs poorly in areas such as health care coverage and health outcomes” (p. 1025).
Papanicolas et al., (2018), also stated, “The United States spent approximately twice as much as other high-income countries on medical care, yet utilization rates in the United States were largely similar to those in other nations. Prices of labor and goods, including pharmaceuticals, and administrative costs appeared to be the major drivers of the difference in overall cost between the United States and other high-income countries” (p. 1038). Papanicolas et al., (2018), reported, “Ten high-income countries were selected for comparison” (p. 1025). The ten countries included, “the United Kingdom (consisting of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland” (p. 1025).
Singh, Andersson and Watkins-Castillo (2019, para. 1) reported “Lumbar/low back pain and cervical/neck pain are among the most common medical conditions requiring medical care and affecting an individual’s ability to work and manage the daily activities of life. Back pain is the most common physical condition for which patients visit their doctor. In any given year, between 12% and 14% of the United States adult population age 18 and older visit their physician with complaints of back pain. The number of physician visits has increased steadily over the years. In 2013, more than 57.1 million patients visited a physician with a complaint of back pain, compared to 50.6 million in 2010. Also, an unknown number of patients visit a chiropractor or physical therapist for these complaints. Singh et. al (2019, para. 4) further reported, “The estimated annual direct medical cost for all persons with a back-related condition in 2014 dollars was an average of $315 billion per year across the years 2012-2014” (https://www.boneandjointburden.org/fourth-edition/iia0/low-back-and-neck-pain).
According to Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation (2017) reporting on data from 2013, The top five disease-based spending categories (ill-defined conditions, circulatory, musculoskeletal, respiratory, and endocrine) account for half of all medical services spending by disease category. Ill-defined conditions each represent about 13% of overall health spending by disease while circulatory, musculoskeletal, respiratory, and endocrine conditions represent 12%, 10%, 8%, and 7% respectively.” That is to say, musculoskeletal disease represents 10% of the health care expenditures” (https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/much-u-s-spend-treat-different-diseases/#item-top-five-disease-categories-account-roughly-half-medical-service-spending).
The above graphic is from the 2017 Peterson-Kaiser report, “How much does the U.S. spend to treat different disease?”
As neck and back pain in one of the most prevalent issues that present to primary care physician (PCP) offices, considering the current opioid crisis and the associated health care expenditure, particularly related to neck and back pain, this raises the question if Doctors of Chiropractic-who are licensed to manage spinal disorders and comprehensive training in spine care, can not only provide similar or better outcomes and greater or equivalent satisfaction among patients, but provide care in a more cost effective manner, as well as help to unburden the already overloaded primary care practices considering the trending shortage of PCPs in our health care delivery system?
In an article by Houweling, Braga, Hausheer, Vogelsang, Peterson and Humphreys (2015), the authors reported on first-contact care with a medical vs. a chiropractic provider after a consultation with a Swiss telemedicine provider. The study looked to compare outcomes, patients satisfisfaction and health care costs in spinal, hip and shoulder pain patients.
Houweling et al., (2019), reported that “Pain of musculoskeletal origin represents a major health problem worldwide. In a Swiss survey conducted in 2007, back pain was a commonly reported health problem, with 43% of the population experiencing this complaint over the course of a year. Of these, 33% reported that their symptoms led to reduced productivity at work. The burden of musculoskeletal conditions on the Swiss health care system is equally staggering, with health care expenditure resulting from this condition being estimated at 14 billion Swiss Francs (CHF) per year (US $14 billion) or 3.2% of the gross domestic product” (p. 478-479).
The study by Houweling et al., (2019), also showed that spinal, hip, and shoulder pain patients had modestly higher pain relief and satisfaction with care at lower overall cost if they initiated care with DCs, when compared with those who initiated care with MDs” (p. 480). Houweling et al., further added, “Although the differences in pain relief scores between groups were statistically significant, they were likely not of clinical significance.” (p. 480). Houweling et al., explained the reason for this was, “the extent of the differences in pain relief observed might be too small for patients to notice a clinically meaningful difference” (p. 480).
With respect to patient satisfaction Houweling et al., (2019), reported, “The findings of this study pertaining to patient satisfaction were in line with previous research comparing chiropractic care to medical care for back pain, which found that chiropractic patients are typically more satisfied with the services received than medical patients” (p. 481). Houweling et al., added, “The Mean total spinal, hip, and shoulder pain-related health care costs per patient during the 4-month study period were approximately 40% lower in patients initially consulting DCs compared with those initially consulting MDs. The reason for this difference was a lower use of health care services other than first-contact care in patients initially consulting DCs compared with those initially consulting MDs” (p. 481).
Thus, Houweling et al., (2019) concluded, “The findings of this study support first-contact care provided by DCs as an alternative to first-contact care provided by MDs for a select number of musculoskeletal conditions” (p. 481). The authors also noted, “In addition to potentially reducing health care costs, direct access to chiropractic care may ease the workload on MDs, particularly in areas with poor medical coverage and hence enabling them to focus on complex cases. The minority of patients with complex health problems initially consulting a chiropractic provider would be referred to, or comanaged with, a medical provider to provide optimal care” (p. 481).
In conclusion, health care cost has skyrocketed out of control with the prediction the US expenditures will reach 6 trillion by 2027. Considering neck and back pain expenditures in between 2012-2014 averaged $315 billion annually and total health care costs in 2017 were $3.5 trillion, this means approximately 10% of health care expenditures annually are for neck and back pain which is supported by the Peterson-Kaiser Health Tracker System report. Moreover, considering the estimated health costs are predicted to be $6 trillion by 2027, if the expenditure for neck and back pain remained on par at 10% that means the cost of neck and back pain in would increase to around $600 billion over that time frame.
Considering in the Houweling et al., that by using doctors of chiropractic as a first-line provider for spine, hip and shoulder pain, it demonstrated a 40% reduction in costs, that means in 2027, if DCs were first-line providers, it is estimated this could save the health care delivery system $240 BILLION DOLLARS in one year alone (just for neck and back pain). If one considers the prediction of 5.5% annual expenditure increase, that means the estimated total expenditure for neck and back pain between 2018-2027 would be $4.65 trillion dollars. If having DCs as a first-line provider were to save 40% in costs, that would translate into saving $1.86 TRILLION DOLLARS. If that was applied to the predicted 2027 neck and back pain expenditure, that number would represent a 32% savings in that year. Given our skyrocketing health care costs, that would represent a significant savings!
Further, if we consider from the study, there was a modestly higher pain relief and ever greater patient satisfaction reported, when you factor in the predicted PCP shortage, having the ability for DCs to serve as a first-line provider, not only can it help unburden the already overloaded PCPs, but doing so would have a significant financial impact in lowering health care expenditures. All things considered, it is time our decision makers take a serious look at improving access to Doctors of Chiropractic so they may serve as first-line providers for the management of all spine and even hip and shoulder related disorders.
The Chiropractic Adjustment Changes Brain Function
The Evidence of Increased Muscle Strength is Added to Pain Sensitivity and Autonomic Changes
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
Matt Erickson DC, FSBT
A report on the scientific literature
There is a growing body of evidence that a high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA) has a significant influence on cortical (brain) and other central (cord) changes. This is significant as the evidence is now answering more questions on why has chiropractic has had such a profound effect on a myriad of conditions beyond back pain. Technology, including but not limited to functional MRI, NCV, EEG and sEMG renders demonstrable validation of the effect the chiropractic spinal adjustment has on changes in central function.
A chiropractic spinal manipulation/adjustment is a specific HVLA thrust maneuver designed to correct spinal patho-neuro-biomechanics (remove nerve irritation/interference, restore biomechanical balance), increases important proteins such as Substance P (Evans 2002) and makes plastic changes to the central nervous system. Conversely, a spinal manipulation as manual therapy or thrust joint manipulation (TJM) performed by physical therapists (PT’s) is a generalized non-specific low-velocity, low-amplitude of non-specific HVLA thrust maneuver of joints and connective tissue to improve motion and decrease muscle tension.
Essentially, the intent of TJM is in treating pain and dysfunction. That is not to say a non-specific manipulation will not help a patient. However, when spinal manipulation is not performed as a chiropractic based neuro-biomechanical corrective adjustment or from a salutogenic health management perspective, it is something else entirely. Therefore, spinal manipulation as a chiropractic adjustment delivered by a chiropractor is not synonymous with TJM, mobilization or spinal manipulation delivered by a PT.
Reed, Pickar, Sozio, and Long (2014) reported, “.forms of manual therapy have been clinically shown to increase mechanical pressure pain thresholds (i.e., decrease sensitivity) in both symptomatic and asymptomatic subjects. Cervical spinal manipulation (chiropractic HVLA) has been shown to result in unilateral as well as bilateral mechanical hypoalgesia. Compared with no manual therapy, oscillatory spinal manual therapy at T12 and L4 produced significantly higher paraspinal pain thresholds at T6, L1, and L3 in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. The immediate and widespread hypoalgesia associated with manual therapy treatments has been attributed to alterations in peripheral and/or central pain processing including activation of descending pain inhibitory systems. Increasing evidence from animal models suggests that manual therapy activates the central nervous system and, in so doing, affects areas well beyond those being treated. (p. 277)
Reed et al. (2014) also reported, The finding that only the higher intensity manipulative stimulus (ie, 85% BW [body weight] vs 55% BW or control) decreased the mechanical sensitivity of lateral thalamic neurons to mechanical trunk stimulation coincides with other reports relating graded mechanical or electrical stimulus intensity to the magnitude of central inhibition. Several clinical studies indicate that spinal manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment] alters central processing of mechanical stimuli evidenced by increased pressure pain thresholds and decreased pain sensitivity in asymptomatic and symptomatic subjects following manipulation. (p. 282)
Daligadu, Haavik, Yielder, Baarbe, and Murphy (2013) reported, There is also evidence in the literature to suggest that muscle impairment occurs early in the history of onset of spinal complaints, and that such muscle impairment does not automatically resolve even when pain symptoms improve. This has led some authors to suggest that the deficits in proprioception and motor control, rather than the pain itself, may be the main factors defining the clinical picture and chronicity of various chronic pain conditions. Furthermore, recent evidence has demonstrated that spinal manipulation (CSA) can alter neuromuscular and proprioceptive function in patients with neck and back pain as well as in asymptomatic participants. For instance, cervical spine manipulation (CSA) has been shown to produce greater changes in pressure pain threshold in lateral epicondylalgia than thoracic manipulation; and in asymptomatic patients, lumbar spine manipulation (CSA) was found to significantly influence corticospinal and spinal reflex excitability. Interestingly, Soon et al did not find neurophysiological changes following mobilization on motor function and pressure pain threshold in asymptomatic individuals, perhaps suggesting that manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustments], as distinct from mobilization, induces unique physiological changes. There is also accumulating evidence to suggest that chiropractic manipulation can result in changes to central nervous system function including reflex excitability, cognitive processing, sensory processing, and motor output. There is also evidence in SCNP [sub-clinical neck pain] individuals that chiropractic manipulation alters cortical somatosensory processing and elbow joint position sense. This evidence suggests that chiropractic manipulation may have a positive neuromodulatory effect on the central nervous system, and this may play a role in the effect it has in the treatment of neck pain. It is hoped improving our understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms that may precede the development of chronic neck pain in individuals with sub-clinical neck pain (SCNP) will help provide a neurophysiological marker of altered sensory processing that could help determine if an individual is showing evidence of disordered sensorimotor integration and thus might benefit from early intervention to prevent the progression of SCNP into more long-term pain states. (p. 528)
Christriansen, Niazi, Holt, Nedergaard, Duehr, Allen, Marshall, Turker and Haarvik (2018) discussed the effects of a single session of a chiropractic spinal manipulation (CSA) on strength and cortical drive. They studied the effects upwards of 60 minutes and further testing is needed to determine the long-term effects of the adjustment. They found in “blinded studies” that “the increased maximum voluntary contraction force lasted for 30 min and the corticospinal excitability increase persisted for at least 60 minutes.” (pg. 737)
Christiansen et. Al (2018) also reported, “The increased V-wave amplitudes observed in the current study possibly reflect an increased cortical drive in the corticospinal pathways and corresponding increased excitability of the MNs following SM found differences in the cortical drive in volleyball athletes competing at different levels, and argued that elite players had increased cortical drive correlating to their biomechanical performance. The absence of change in the H-reflex in the presence of the increased MVC along with increased V-waves suggests that it's possible that the change post manipulation occurred at supraspinal centers involving a cortical neural drive. The V-waves represent cortical drive. The absence of change in the H-reflex alone suggests that the spinal motor neurons and the excitability of the spindle primary afferent synapses on the spinal motor neurons did not change as a result of SM.” (pg. 745) The above paragraph indicates there is no input at the cord level as the H-Reflex exhibited no changes.
Increased motor function for a minimum of 60 minutes post-chiropractic spinal adjustment has far-reaching manifestations for a dichotomy of the population. Athletes at every level will benefit from increased motor function and patients suffering from either muscular or neuro-degenerative illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Muscular Dystrophy and others will also potentially benefit. Although this article touched on PT manual therapy, low-velocity, low-amplitude or non-specific thrust joint manipulation; these forms of treatment do not render the outcomes a chiropractic spinal adjustment.
Christiansen et. Al (2018) concluded and perfectly positioned the effect of a chiropractic spinal adjustment and the effect on the brain, “this study supports a growing body of research that suggests chiropractic spinal manipulation’s main effect is neuroplastic in nature and affects corticospinal excitability. Changes in both cerebellum and prefrontal cortex function have been implicated post-spinal manipulation in previous research studies. The presence of mild, recurrent spinal dysfunction has been shown to be associated with maladaptive neural plastic changes, such as alterations in elbow joint position sense mental rotation ability, and even multisensory integration Furthermore, spinal manipulation of dysfunctional spinal segments has been shown to impact somatosensory processing, sensorimotor integration and motor control.” (pg. 746)
Diagnosis & Collaborative Management Between the Chiropractor as the Primary Spine Care Provider and the Neurosurgeon
By: Matt Erickson DC, FSBT
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
John Edwards MD, Neurosurgeon
Clay Wickiser DC
is defined as softening of the spinal cord and can be a result of injury and represents a serious and potentially life-threatening sequella to injury if not treated. According to Zhou, Kim, Vo and Riew (2015), “Cervical myelomalacia is a relatively uncommon finding on MRI, with anoverall prevalence of 4.2% among all patients who underwent cervical MRI. Males had a higher prevalence (5.6%) than the females (3.0%).” (pg. E250)
Zhou et al., (2015) also reported, “There were considerable variations in the prevalence of myelomalacia in patients referred by different specialties/subspecialties. Specialists in spinal cord injury had the highest rate (28.7%), followed by neurological (8.4%) and orthopedic (6.4%) spine surgeons, general neurosurgeons (5.5%), and neurologists (4.2%). Specialists who generally do not treat patients with spine problems had the lowest (1.2%) followed by non-spine orthopedists (1.6%) and primary care doctors (2.1%)” (p. E248).
Myelomalacia is ischemic or hemorrhagic necrosis of the spinal cord that can occur following acute spinal cord injury, and represents extensive damage of the intramedullary spinal vasculature” (pg. 78). According to “In small animal neurology, the term myelomalacia … is normally used to refer to hemorrhagic infarction of the spinal cord that can occur as a sequel to acute injuries, such as that caused by intervertebral disc extrusion. Myelomalacia may occur as a focal lesion or may spread cranially and caudally along the spinal cord, resulting in a diffuse, severe lesion. Histologic lesions of myelomalacia are compatible with ischemic necrosis” (pg. 326).
According to a website article titled, “Myelomalacia” by Foster and Wilborn (2019), “Myelomalacia is a medical condition in which the spinal cord becomes soft. It is caused by the insufficient blood supply to the spinal cord, either as a result of bleeding or because of poor circulation. Myelomalacia most often occurs as a result of the injury” (www.wisegeek.com/what-is-myelomalacia.htm). Foster and Wilborn (2019) added, “Caused by mild to severe spinal cord injury, myelomalacia leads to neurological problems, often related to muscle movement. Often, the onset of the condition is slow and subtle, making it difficult for doctors to catch at an early stage. The condition may present simply as high blood pressure, for example, and may not be diagnosed until after the point at which it has become inoperable. While symptoms vary, they may include loss of motor function in the lower extremities, sudden jerking of the limbs, an inability to sense pain, depression, difficulty breathing, and paralysis. The damage can migrate towards the brain in a condition known as ascending syndrome. Myelomalacia can be fatal if it causes paralysis of the respiratory system (para. 2-3).
, “The exact pathophysiology is poorly understood but it seems to be the result of the concussive effects of trauma, ischemia, and the release of vasoactive substances, oxygen-free radicals and cellular enzymes. When the spinal cord is acutely damaged, cell death in the gray matter may occur within 4 hours, with this area of necrosis expanding for a few days” (pg. 78). This means that many patients can have significant underlying progressive pathology with symptoms that have not yet fully expressed themselves, but the evidence is demonstrative to the trained expert. This further supports the necessity and importance of having a primary spine care provider with trauma qualifications to diagnose the issue early on and coordinate care with the neurosurgeon.
Operative Neurosurgery, “Myelomalacia” (administrator updated) (2018, para. 4), explained, “Gradual cranial migration of the neurological deficits (problems relating to the nervous system), is known as ascending syndrome and is said to be a typical feature of diffuse myelomalacia. Although clinical signs of myelomalacia are observed within the onset (start) of paraplegia, sometimes they may become evident only in the post-operative period, or even days after the onset of paraplegia. Death from myelomalacia may occur as a result of respiratory paralysis when the ascending lesion (abnormal damaged tissue) reaches the motor nuclei of the phrenic nerves (nerves between the C3-C5 region of the spine) in the cervical (neck) region” (https://operativeneurosurgery.com/doku.php?id=myelomalacia).
As such, it is imperative for there to be collaborative case management between the primary spine care expert and the neurosurgeon. The role of the primary spine care provider is an early diagnosis to be able to identify, treat and involve the neurosurgeon when clinically indicated because if left undiagnosed and untreated, myelomalacia can become a seriously debilitating and/or life-threatening injury. Those injuries are from and trauma the spinal cord is exposed to (auto accidents, sports injuries, falls, etc.). Currently, there is a growing body of chiropractors nationally that are primary spine care and trauma qualified and trained in the early detection (diagnosis) and management of this population of patients.
According to Zohrabian and Flanders, Chapter 37: Imaging of trauma of the spine from the Handbook of Clinical Neurology Part II, “MRI is the only available imaging modality that is able to clearly depict the internal architecture of the spine cord, and, as such, has a central role in depicting parenchymal changes resulting from injury” (pg. 760). Further, “It may be difficult to distinguish spinal cord white matter from gray matter, especially in the sagittal plane, due to the similar T1 and T2 relaxation characteristics. Many prior investigations have shown that MRI characteristics of (SCI) Spinal Cord Injury, including presence and extent of cord edema and hemorrhage, are concordant with neurologic impairment at the time of injury and predict recovery” (pg.760).
Zohrabian and Flanders also wrote, “The most common location of posttraumatic spinal cord hemorrhage is the central gray matter of the spinal cord at the point of mechanical impact. The lesion most often represents hemorrhagic necrosis; true hematomyelia is rarely encountered. The lesion appears as a discrete focus of hypointensity on T2-weighted and gradient echo images, developing rapidly after SCI” (pg.760).
Zohrabian and Flanders (2016) stated, “Moreover, the location of cord hemorrhage has been shown to closely correspond to the neurologic level of injury, with frank hemorrhage correlation with poor neurologic recovery” (p. 760).
Zohrabian and Flanders (2016) further added, “Although several MRI classification schemes have been proposed, there are three common imaging observations: spinal cord hemorrhage, spinal cord edema, and spinal cord swelling. Each of these characteristics can be further described by their rostra-caudal (top to bottom) location in the cord and the amount of cord parenchyma they involve” (p. 760).
“Spinal cord edema, colloquially referred to as a cord contusion, can occur with or without hemorrhage. Edema involves a length of the spinal cord above and below the level of injury, with the length of the spinal cord show to be proportional to the degree of initial neurologic deficit. Spinal cord hemorrhage always coexists with spinal cord edema. Cord edema alone usually confers a more favorable prognosis that cord hemorrhage” (pg. 761).
According to D.J. Seidenwurm MD (, “In traumatic myelopathy, the first priority is mechanical stability. Plain radiographs are sometimes useful for this purpose, but CT is more useful when a high probability of bony injury or ligamentous injury is present. In many centers, routine multidetector CT with sagittal and coronal reconstructions has replaced plain radiographs, especially in the setting of multiple trauma” (pg. 1032).
Concerning CT, Foster and Wilborn (2019) reported, “Myelography uses a contrast medium injected into the spine to reveal injuries in x-rays. It is more invasive than an MRI, but can also detect injury in some cases in which MRI cannot. Therefore, myelography is typically used as a follow up to MRI when the latter fails to identify the source of pain or injury.” (para. 4)Finally, Zohrabian and Flanders reported, “Unlike in spinal cord cysts, myelomalacia will not parallel CSF (cerebral spinal fluid) signal intensity and its margins will usually be irregular and ill-defined (Falcone et al., 1994). The cord may be normal in size, although it is frequently atrophic at the site of myelomalacia (Fig. 37.24).” (pg. 763)
Zhou, Kim and Vo (2015) further explain, “Myelomalacia is a radiographical finding on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) manifested by an ill-defined area of cord signal change, visible on T1- and T2-weighted sequences as hypo- and hyperintense areas, respectively. It is commonly associated with focal cord atrophy. It occurs as a sequel to spinal cord injury (SCI) due to different causes such as cord compression, ischemia, and hemorrhage. It is the most common finding in patients with previous spinal cord injury with a prevalence of 55% among patients with SCI” (p. E248).
Due to the seriousness and progressive nature of myelomalacia, it is important for the Primary Spine Care Provider, to recognize the signs and symptoms associated with myelomalacia and to identify the lesion on MRI and if identified, immediately refer the patient for a neurosurgical consultation. This also underscores why physical therapists, although licensed to treat spine, should never be the first provider to manage a spine case as diagnosing these and other conditions are not within their scope.
Foster and Wilborn (2019, para. 5) also reported, “Unfortunately, neurological damage due to myelomalacia is permanent. It can also worsen, as the nerve damage can cause affected muscles to whither. Treatment is focused on preventing further damage. Possible treatments include spinal cord surgery and medication with steroids, which serves to relax spastic muscles, reduce pain, and reduce swelling of the spinal cord.” Foster and Wilborn (2019, para. 6) also suggested, “Stem cell therapy may be used to repair neurological damage caused by myelomalacia in the future, but the therapy is currently experimental and controversial. Recent technology suggests that adult stem cells, which can be harvested from the patient's own body, show promise in treating neurological damage by allowing new, healthy tissue to grow”(www.wisegeek.com/what-is-myelomalacia.htm).
Zhou, Kim, Vo and Riew (2015) reported, “The presence of myelomalacia in the cervical spinal cord has prognostic value after decompression surgery. Some surgeons consider operative treatment of all patients with myelomalacia based on the assumption that myelomalacia is a relatively uncommon finding.” (p. E248) The authors also reported, “Many patients with myelomalacia are clinically asymptomatic or have only mild myelopathic symptoms and signs. The extent of intramedullary changes on MRI does not always correlate with clinical symptoms. Hence, for patients with asymptomatic or mild myelopathy with myelomalacia on MRI, the appropriate management remains controversial” (p. E249).
Zhou et al (2015) further added, “Several articles have suggested that conservative management is not an unreasonable option for patients with myelomalacia and mild myelopathy. It has been reported that the condition of 56% of patients with mild CSM (cervical spine myelomalacia) had not deteriorated or required surgery after 10 years. However, 2 of 45 (4.4%) patients who were treated nonoperatively with T2 hyperintensities experienced catastrophic neurological deficits with trivial trauma. Early-stage myelomalacia may be reversible, depending on the severity of the initial SCI (spinal cord injury), and may be reversed after decompression surgery” (p. E249).
This is not suggesting surgery for myelomalacia is always required. According to Dr. Mark Kotter (n.d., para. 3) in a website article titled “Myelomalacia” from myelopathy.org,“The presence or absence of myelomalacia should not be used to define when surgery should occur.” Although he further stated, “its presence and extent may be related to prognosis” (http://www.myelopathy.org/myelomalacia.html). Myelomalacia, like any spinal related injury never uses imaging findings exclusively as an arbiter for surgery. That decision is reserved for combining a clinical examination with imaging findings and the surgeon decides if surgery will benefit the patient. It is the role of the primary spine care provider to ensure and early diagnosis and referral to try to develop treatment protocols to surgically decompress the spinal cord to help reverse this pathology and often can be done if damage has been minimized.
Surgery for Myelomalacia
A patient with myelomalacia may require surgery to decompress the spinal cord. Different techniques are used depending on the pathology that may or may not include spinal fusion. Many patients are treated with an anterior approach. The offending material is removed and the spine is reconstructed either with a fusion or an artificial disc replacement. Some patients, especially with multilevel pathology, require posterior decompression with or without fusion.
The primary goal of surgery for myelomalacia is to decompress the spinal cord. Secondary goals include maintaining spinal structural integrity, alignment, and biomechanical function.
The image on the left is courtesy of Jed Weber MD, Neurosurgeon. You can see the severe spinal cord compression creating an hour glass affect secondary to a disc extrusion. Myelomalacia is also present as a white spot in the spinal cord at the compression site.
Concerning surgically balancing the spine, sagittal (front to back) balance is associated with better post-surgical outcomes. Healia.com reported on lectures by Serena Hu, MD, Jean Charles LeHuec, MD, PhD and J.N. Alastair Gibson, MD, FRCS(Ed), FRCS (Tr &Orth), MFSTEd related to outcomes of lumbar spine surgery about sagittal balance. According to Dr. Hu (2016, para 3), “Surgical outcomes for spine surgery are improved when spinal, pelvic and hip alignment is considered in both degenerate and deformity cases, and how we better understand these will help us better improve outcomes for our patients” (https://www.healio.com/spine-surgery/lumbar/news/print/spine-surgery-today/%7B54ac5ca2-7939-407d-96a5-31fa9c0fc904%7D/proper-sagittal-balance-may-correlate-with-better-surgical-outcomes).
Dr. Hu (2016) further reported, “Sagittal imbalance in a patient can negatively affect the outcomes of a surgical procedure. But, how extensive the surgery required is to correct the imbalance must be carefully considered for the individual patient” (para. 4). Dr. LeHuec (2016) added, “Sagittal balance is an active phenomenon for patients. “The best course of action is to strive to achieve sagittal balance in patients” (para. 8).
In a study by
In an article by Yeh, Lee, Chen, Yu, Liu, Peng, Wang, and Wu, (2018) they concluded, “The results of this study support previous findings that functional outcomes are closely associated with sagittal radiographic parameters in the patients with the degenerative thoracolumbar spinal disease who received long-segment fusion. The achievement of global and regional sagittal alignment balance is a crucial factor for improved postoperative functional outcomes” (p. 1361).
The primary care spine provider and the neurosurgeon can work together to best achieve spinal alignment and balance. If the patient has been cleared for mechanical treatment, the primary care spine provider can work to balance the spine (front to back and side to side) before any necessary surgical intervention. The neurosurgeon can work to maintain and improve spinal alignment with surgery. Post-operatively, ongoing chiropractic spinal adjustments can help maintain and continue to improve spinal alignment. This can lead to the best possible surgical outcomes.
Patients with myelomalacia present an ideal opportunity to further the relationship between the Doctor of Chiropractic as the primary care spine provider and the neurosurgeon. The finding of myelomalacia requires surgical consultation. If the chiropractor identifies myelomalacia, he or she can then refer to the neurosurgeon and begin the discussion necessary for further co-management. The chiropractor can ask if surgery is necessary. If so, the Doctor of Chiropractic can ask if mechanical treatment can be done pre-operatively or ask if it should wait until after surgery. If the patient needs close monitoring over time, the astute chiropractor can regularly check on and provide education to the patient under the direction of the neurosurgeon.
In patients with myelomalacia, the ability of the Doctor of Chiropractic to monitor symptoms, prepare a patient for surgery, and manage the spine mechanically after surgery are advantageous to the surgeon, who can spend more of their time performing surgery and also enjoy greater patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Myelomalacia represents a softening of the spinal cord that commonly results from trauma. If myelomalacia is observed on imaging, the advanced trained Doctor of Chiropractic in the capacity of a primary spine care provider, should refer the patient out for a neurosurgical consultation. In the event surgery is not indicated, the chiropractor can create a treatment plan with the surgeon to help axially balance and stabilized the spine, thereby reducing the compressive forces on the spinal cord and maintaining spinal mechanics. If surgery is required, the chiropractor can coordinate conservative care with the surgeon to help biomechanically balance and then manage the patient’s spine to promote a better long term post-surgical outcome. Whether surgical or not, the chiropractor can play an integral role in the patient’s car and should the chiropractor have additional training in MRI Spine Interpretation, Spinal Biomechanical Engineering and/or other advanced spinal knowledge, it provides the basis for better collaboration.
Preventing Spinal Degeneration Through Chiropractic Care
Subluxation Degeneration/Spondylosis Explained via Wolff’s Law
Spondylosis, also known as osteoarthritis of the spine, is rarely appreciated as one of the most sigificant causes of persistent pain and disability in the world today. This form of arthropathy is so universal that it is often regarded as part of the “normal” aging process. “Osteoarthritis is usually progressive and often deforming and disabling” as reported by Gottlieb (1997). “Up to 50% of individuals will experience arthritic back pain at some point in their lives. Despite its high prevalence, there exists limited information (albeit through allopathic medicine) available regarding the factors associated with the development of lumbar spine degeneration” as reported by Weinberg, Liu, Xie, Morris, Gebhart and Gordon (2017). The projected number of older adults with arthritis or other chronic musculoskeletal joint symptoms is expected to nearly double from 21.4 million in 2005 to 41.1 million by 2030 in the United States. The assumption is so will the progression of persistent pain and disability. We see that allopathic medicine has little information to help reduce the progression of this disease process, which is why chiropractic is the only true solution since we view the body from a mechanical perspective. It is the maintenance of the mechanical workings of the spine that is the real approach to preventing degenerative “wear and tear” of the human spine.
Weinberg et. Al (2017) continued by reporting “Certain mechanical causes have been implicated in the development of degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine, including lumbar lordosis, the length of the transverse processes, disc-space narrowing, and traction spurs. Lately, authors have begun investigating the roles of facet orientation, tropism, and pelvic incidence, although data remains limited. It has recently been suggested that the relationships between pelvic incidence and facet orientation may have profound implications in the development of adjacent segment lumbar degenerative joint disease—this has sparked enthusiastic research better defining the role of sagittal balance in osteoarthritis formation.” Pg. 1593
When we consider spinal osteoarthritis, we must compare normal spinal biomechanics and loading vs. abnormal spinal biomechanics and pathological loading that results. Teichtahl, Wluka, Wijethilake, Wang, Ghasem-Zadeh and Cicuttini (2015) reported “Julius Wolff (1836–1902), a German anatomist and surgeon, theorized that bone will adapt to the repeated loads under which it is placed. He proposed that, if the load to a bone increases, remodeling will occur so that the bone is better equipped to resist such loads. Likewise, he hypothesized that, if the load to a bone decreases, homeostatic mechanisms will shift toward a catabolic state, and bone will be equipped to withstand only the loads to which it is subjected.” Pg. 2
“It is now recognized that remodeling of bone in response to a load occurs via sophisticated mechano-transduction mechanisms. These are processes whereby mechanical signals are converted via cellular signaling to biochemical responses. The key steps involved in these processes include mechano-coupling, biochemical coupling, signal transmission, and cell response.” Pg. 1
“Bone is a dynamic tissue that is tightly regulated by a multitude of homeostatic controls. One key environmental regulator of periarticular bone is mechanical stimulation. Wolff’s law relates to the response of bone to mechanical stimulation and states that bony adaptation will occur in response to a repeated load. It is interesting to consider this in the setting of knee OA, which has a strong biomechanical component to its etiology.” Pg. 1
“When periarticular bone is subjected to increased loading, some bone properties change. These include, but are not limited to, an expanding subchondral bone cross-sectional area, changes in bone mass, and remodeling of the trabeculae network. Although these changes likely represent appropriate homeostatic responses of bone to increased loading, they also appear to inadvertently predate maladaptive responses in other articular structures, most notably cartilage.” Pg. 1
Keorochana, Taghavi, Lee, Yoo, Liao, Fei and Wang reported (2011) “Differences in sagittal spinal alignment between normal subjects and those with low back pain have been reported. Previous studies have demonstrated that changes in sagittal spinal alignment are involved in the development of a spectrum of spinal disorders. It has also been a topic of great interest in the management of lumbar degenerative pathologies, especially when focusing on the role it may play in accelerating adjacent degeneration after spinal fusion and non-fusion procedures such as dynamic stabilization and total disc replacement. Spinal morphology may influence the loading and stresses that act on spinal structures. Alterations in the stress distribution may ultimately influence the occurrence of spinal degeneration. Moreover, changes in sagittal morphology may alter the mechanics of the lumbar spine, affecting mobility.” Pg. 893
Panjabi (2006) reported:
Cramer et al. (2002) reported “One component of spinal dysfunction treated by chiropractors has been described as the development of adhesions in the zygapophysial (Z) joints after hypomobility. This hypomobility may be the result of injury, inactivity, or repetitive asymmetrical movements…one beneficial effect of spinal manipulation may be the “breaking up” of putative fibrous adhesions that develop in hypomobile or “fixed” Z joints. Spinal adjusting of the lumbar region is thought to separate or gap the articular surfaces of the Z joints. Theoretically, gapping breaks up adhesions, thus helping the motion segment reestablish a physiologic range of motion.” (p. 2459)
Evans (2002) reported “On flexion of the lumbar spine, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with it. On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying "lesion" under the capsule: a meniscoid entrapment. A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent impaction of the meniscoid. The patient would tend to be more comfortable with the spine maintained in a flexed position, because this will disengage the meniscoid. The extension would therefore tend to be inhibited. This condition has also been termed a "joint lock" or "facet-lock" the latter of which indicates the involvement of the zygapophyseal joint.” Pg. 252
The sagittal spinal misalignments developed after hypo or hypermobility as a result of injury, inactivity, or repetitive asymmetrical movements as reported Cramer, creates mechanoreceptor and nociceptor pathological input, this in turn as reported by Evans creates a mechanical displacement of the zygapophyseal joint and aberrant stimulation to type III and IV nociceptors. This also, according to Panjabi causes a corrupting of neuromuscular transducers (mechanoreceptors and nociceptors) of the spinal muscular system. These combine to create spinal neuro-pathobiomechanics for the spine globally and at each affected motor unit. This is what has been historically called in chiropractic “vertebral subluxation.“ Based upon Wolff’s Law, the persistent biomechanical failure, as perpetuated by the central nervous system being corrupted and attempting to compensate through muscular activity creates premature degeneration of the spine or osteoarthritis or “Subluxation Degeneration.”
Evans (2002) concluded that a high velocity-low amplitude manipulation (chiropractic spinal adjustment) of the joint involving flexion and gapping, reduces the impaction and opens the joint to encourage re-entry of the meniscoid into the joint space and realignment of the joint.” Pg. 253 This activity reduced the irritation or pressure on the nociceptors on the zygapophyseal joints stopping the corruption of the central nervous system and allowing the body to “right itself” and halt the degenerative process of the spine.
It has already been concluded, as reported by Blanchette, Rivard, Dionne, Hogg-Johnson and Steenstra (2017) in a population-based study of 5511 injured workers in Ontario Canada as reported by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, a governmental agency reported a comparison of outcomes for back pain among patients seen by three types of providers: medical physicians, chiropractors and physical therapists. The found “The type of first healthcare provider was a significant predictor of the duration of the first episode of compensation only during the first 5 months of compensation. When compared with medical doctors, chiropractors were associated with shorter durations of compensation and physiotherapists with longer ones. Physiotherapists were also associated with higher odds of the second episode of financial compensation.” (pg.392) and “These differences raise concerns regarding the use of physiotherapists as gatekeepers for the worker’s compensation system.” (pg. 382)
Blanchette, Rivard, Dionne, Hogg-Johnson and Steenstra (2017) continued, “The cohort study of American workers with back pain conducted by Turner et al. found that the first healthcare provider was one of the main predictors of work disability after a year. By our findings, workers who first sought chiropractic care were less likely to be work-disabled after 1 year compared with workers who first sought other types of medical care.
Considering that 50% of the population will experience some type of pain and/or potential disability as a result of spinal arthritis, chiropractic, as reported above is positioned as the best first option for spine as an evidence-based solution. This is called Primary Spine Care and chiropractic is best positioned to lead society in the prevention of osteoarthritis/subluxation degeneration through chiropractic care.
Deceptive Dogmatic Reporting Despite Successful Chiropractic Outcomes
Revealing the deception of low back pain naturally resolving
…and the dogma of non-specific back pain
Mark Studin, DC
William J. Owens DC
Timothy Weir, DC
Citation:Studin M., Owens W., Weir T. (2018) Deceptive Dogmatic Reporting Despite Successful Chiropractic Outcomes, American Chiropractor, 40 (11) 10, 12-15
A report on the scientific literature
Over the past decade, there has been a growing body of evidence demonstrating the “how and why” of chiropractic evidenced-based results. However, there has also been a historical level of reporting dogmatic issues related to the “the natural history of back pain” and “non-specific back pain” that deceptively enter and intersect the conversation to apparently discredit “pro-chiropractic” evidenced-based research that has persisted in contemporary literature. This review is centered on those issues, and the references for the above comments will ensue in the paragraphs below.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports “Most low back pain is acute, or short-term, and lasts a few days to a few weeks. It tends to resolve on its own with self-care, and there is no residual loss of function.”
https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet. Kaiser Permanente, a national health system reports, “For most patients with back pain, the condition will improve within a few days or weeks.” https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/static/pdf/public/guidelines/back-pain.pdf
Kaiser Permanente goes on to report, “The primary goal of treatment is to maximize function and quality of life, rather than to eliminate pain. Some ongoing or recurrent pain is normal and not indicative of a serious problem. Avoid exposing the patient to unhelpful or possibly risky interventions. As a general rule, an intervention in which the patient is an active participant (e.g., physical therapy, walking, stretching, yoga) rather than a passive recipient (e.g., chiropractic, massage, acupuncture) is deemed to have greater potential to promote self-efficacy and self-management skills in the long term.”
Gedin, Edmar, Sundberg, and Burström in 2018 reported “Patients with acute back pain reported statistically significant and MCID (Minimal Clinically Important Difference) improvements in back pain intensity, back disability, HRQoL (Health-Related Quality of Life instrument), and statistically significant improvements in self-rated health, over four weeks following chiropractic care. Patients with chronic back pain reported statistically significant, albeit smaller and non MCID, changes for all PRO except self-rated health.
Interestingly, Gedin et al. have a significant level of statistics of demonstrating percentages of subjects who showed improvement and choose not to report that in the written part of the report, thereby not rendering a statistical interpretation. However, they included a caveat to perhaps minimize the positive results by reiterating the same deceptive dogma as discussed above. Gedin et. al then reported “However, it has been suggested that 90% of patients with acute low back pain recover within six weeks (van Tulder et al., 2006), which may also help explain the current findings of rapid improvements.(pg. 16) This opinion published in 2018 was referenced and supported by a 12-year old study which clearly ignored the contemporary literature.
Tamcan, Mannion, Eisenring, Horisberger (2010) reported on the only population-based study these authors were able to identify and concluded “When the 12-month follow-up period was divided into four equal time periods and, subsequently, clusters, it was seen that the majority of individuals placed in the moderate persistent [pain] cluster on the basis of the first 3 months data remained in this cluster at the following intervals. A reasonable consistency across time was also found for the clusters mild persistent and severe persistent. In contrast, the consistency of membership for the cluster initially identified as fluctuating was low, especially after six months.” (pg. 455-456) This study, which again is the only identified population-based study indicates that pain does not resolve “naturally” as was reported: “fluctuation was low, especially after six months.”
Knecht, Humphyres and Wirth (2017) reported on the recurrence of low back pain and stated, “Only 1 in 3 LBP (low back pain) episodes completely resolve within a year, and the percentage of LBP that goes from acute to chronic varies among studies from 2% to 34%.” Knecht et. Al (2017) also went on to report “Patients presenting with a subacute problem, lasting for more than 14 days at baseline, were at higher odds for a recurrent course, whereas the odds for a chronic course were higher only for patients presenting with a chronic problem (≥3 months) at baseline. Downie et al. reported that pain duration of more than five days was a factor that negatively affects prognosis. Similarly, duration of the current episode emerged as the most consistent factor for prognosis after one year in a study by Bekkering et al. and even predicted disability after five years. These findings suggest on the one hand that it might be prudent to seek professional advice [referenced chiropractic care in the article] early on in the pain episode.” (pg. 431)
These papers a part of the research trend supporting what the chiropractic profession has known all along, the natural progression of low back pain resulting in resolution is based on dogma and not supported by the research evidence. Additionally, the low back pain care path reported previously by Kaiser Permanente appears to be biased towards the denial of care and not consistent with the published literature.
Gedin et. Al (2018) also report, “it has been estimated that the vast majority of back pain cases is of non-specific origin.” (pg. 3) The concept of simply focusing on the treatment of non-specific back pain would render chiropractic no different than physical therapists when focusing on the “non-specific” nature of spine pain as the arbiter for care while the focus must be on the biomechanical compensation and individual motor units of the spine. Previous literature has verified that the supposition that “non-specific” is synonymous with ‘unobjectifiable” is erroneous since it was previously reported that chiropractic treats definite biomechanical changes in the motor units of the spine, therefore resulting in “very specific” biomechanical pathology.
Panjabi in 1992, presented a detailed work explaining how the biomechanical systems within the human spine react to the environment, how it can become dysfunctional and cause pain. He stated “Presented here is the conceptual basis for the assertion that the spinal stabilizing system consists of three subsystems, the vertebrae, discs, and ligaments constitute the passive subsystem, all muscles and tendons surrounding the spinal column that can apply forces to the spinal column constitute the active subsystem and finally, the nerves and central nervous system comprise the neural subsystem, which determines the requirements for spinal stability by monitoring the various transducer signals [of the nervous system] and directs the active subsystem to provide the needed stability.” He goes on to state, “A dysfunction of a component of any one of the subsystems may lead to one or more of the following three possibilities, an immediate response from other subsystems to successfully compensate, a long-term adaptation response of one or more subsystems or an injury to one or more components of any subsystem.”
Panjabi continues, “It is conceptualized that the first response results in normal function, the second results in normal function but with an altered spinal stabilizing system, and the third leads to overall system dysfunction, producing, for example, low back pain. In situations where additional loads or complex postures are anticipated, the neural control unit may alter the muscle recruitment strategy, with the temporary goal of enhancing the spine stability beyond the normal requirements.” (pg. 383) This is where the idea of biomechanical compensation was identified.
Panjabi’s lifelong work summarized in the above work is the basis for the underlying mechanics of spine pain that does NOT correlate well to anatomical findings. Anatomical findings are fracture, tumor or infection and allopathy has labeled anything else “non-specific low back pain” which continues to maintain a dogmatic perspective in both clinical decision making and all too often, the literature, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.
Cramer et al. (2002) further clarified the biomechanics of spinal failure at the motor until level and reported, “One component of spinal dysfunction treated by chiropractors has been described as the development of adhesions in the zygapophysial (Z) joints after hypomobility. This hypomobility may be the result of injury, inactivity, or repetitive asymmetrical movements… one beneficial effect of spinal manipulation may be the “breaking up” of putative fibrous adhesions that develop in hypomobile or ‘fixed’ Z joints. Spinal adjusting of the lumbar region is thought to separate or gap the articular surfaces of the Z joints. Theoretically, gapping breaks up adhesions, thus helping the motion segment reestablish a physiologic range of motion.” (p. 2459)
Evans (2002) reported, “on flexion of the lumbar spine, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with it. On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying ‘ lesion’ under the capsule: a meniscoid entrapment. A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent impaction of the meniscoid.” (pg. 252)
Evans (2002) continued, “an HVLA manipulation, involving gapping of the zygapophyseal joint reduces the impaction and opens the joint, so encouraging the meniscoid to return to its normal anatomical position in the joint cavity. This ceases the distension of the joint capsule, thus reducing pain.” (p. 253)
The involvement of nociceptors and nociceptive impulses stimulates the cortical regions of the brain which evokes a cortical response to that noxious stimuli. Haavik et al. (2017) reported the effects of a chiropractic spinal high velocity-low amplitude adjustment by stating “These results are consistent with previous findings that have suggested increases in strength following spinal manipulation were due to descending cortical drive and could not be explained by changes at the level of the spinal cord.” (pg. 1)
The persistent utilization of “non-specific” in reference to specific biomechanical alterations and failure in the human spine is dogmatic and deceptive since it “lumps together” all types of manual treatment, where chiropractic, based upon its unique application differs from other forms of manual therapy performed by physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy. It differs in the ability of chiropractors to diagnosis and manages spinal compensation. In comparison to each other, each discipline is disparate in goals, application, and science and when not considered as such, lends itself to continue deceptive dogmatic arguments ignoring the evidenced-based truths of chiropractic.
CASE REPORT: SEVERE DISC HERNIATION WITHOUT RADICULAR SYMPTOMATOLOGY
Richard A. Laviano DC
The patient was a very pleasant 43-year-old male presenting to the clinic with acute onset of low back pain that started 7 days ago after performing some heavy lifting at work. The pain was in the lumbosacral region and right sacral leg joint region and surrounding musculature that radiated into the posterior aspect of the right leg. No numbness or tingling was present. No loss of bowel or bladder control. Any type of movement that involves bending and twisting greatly exacerbates the pain. The pain is constant and especially worse in the mornings. The patient presented with inability to fully weight-bear on the right leg and thus presented with a right limp.
The patient indicated that he had not experienced prior symptoms similar to his current complaints and was symptom-free at the time of the incident above. The patient’s medical, surgical, and family history was unremarkable. He is a healthy Hispanic male.
His superficial appearance did not indicate any apparent distress. Further, observation showed minor’s sign to be present. This sign is present when the patient, in arising from a chair, leans forward, jackknifing the thighs and the dorso-lumbar spine so that the head is over the feet. Using the hands on the thighs or the arms of the chair, the patient pushes the body to an upright position, thus sparing lower limb effort. The presence of this sign is usually indicative of sciatica. There was no apparent spine tilt with him standing upright.
The patient was 5 feet 8 inches at 156 pounds, well-developed with a body temperature of 99.2°F. His blood pressure was slightly elevated at 149/81 mm Hg and a heart rate at 72 beats per minute. On examination, the eyes, ears, and throat appeared normal.
Gait analysis reveals complete loss of normal gait pattern greatly favoring his left leg.
The patient’s range of motion was decreased in all ranges with pain and spasm in the erector spinae muscles including the iliocostalis lumborum and iliocostalis thoracics muscles bilaterally. Muscles of the lower extremity were 5 out of 5 for all muscles in the left leg. A 3 out of 5 test was noted in right anterior tibialis muscle and right extensor hallucis longus muscle. No atrophy was noted. The patient’s deep tendon reflexes of the upper and lower extremities were noted to be a 2+ rating bilaterally for patellar and Achilles. Cranial nerve testing also showed to be normal. The patient had normal sensation symmetrically and bilaterally.
Orthopedic testing showed positive straight leg raise test both in the supine and seated position (slumps) with reproduction of patient shooting pain along the posterior aspect of the right leg with a patient audible response due to the severity of pain. Bechterew’s test also showed positive on the right side.
Palpation of the lumbar spine showed tenderness along L3-L5 facet joints and surrounding musculature. Spasming noted in during palpation of the erector spinae muscles bilaterally. Edema is noted in this region as well.
A full spine weight bearing radiographic study was taken (utilizing views: APOM, AP cervical, AP Thoracic, AP lumbopelvic, lateral cervical, lateral thoracic, and lateral lumbar). An MRI of the lumbar spine was also ordered immediately before beginning treatment. See figures below.
The radiographic study showed loss of normal lumbar lordosis consistent with an acute injury. No degenerative changes are present. Neural foramina appear patent. No evidence of fracture or dislocation. A moderate left list of the lumbar spine is noted consistent with a disc injury. Acetabular joints appear normal. The adjacent soft tissue appears normal.
Image 1 – loss of lumbar lordosis with left list, Antalgia, seen on radiograph.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging:
MRI Study was reviewed, and findings included: Marrow edema was normal with no signs of fracture. The vertebral alignment showed loss of normal lumbar lordosis and caddy lever appearance of L3 on L4. Hemangiomas noted at L1 and L5 in trabecular bone vertebral bodies. Conus medullaris and cauda equina appear normal. There is a T2 hyperintense signal cystic structure noted at the posterior aspect of the conus medullaris at T12-L1. This is incompletely evaluated in this study. L1-L2 appears normal with no stenosis of the neural foramina or central canal. L2-L3 shows posterior central annular fissure. The high signal in this fissure indicates it is acute. No central canal or neural foraminal stenosis. L3-L4 showed mild disc bulging with a superimposed right paracentral disc extrusion1 at L3-L4 with migration inferior-ward displacing the thecal sac and the fourth lumbar nerve root before it reaches the L4-L5 neural canal on the right. L4-L5 shows moderate disc bulging with a superimposed posterior left paracentral disc protrusion type herniation with an annular fissure. Due to the high signal in this fissure, it is most likely acute. L5-S1 appears normal with no central canal or neural foraminal stenosis. Recommendations included a thoracic spine study to assess cystic lesion as noted above. Immediate neurosurgical consultation is also recommended. See Images 2 through 5 below.
Image 2 – extrusion herniation with inferior migration.
Image 3 – displacement of thecal sac posteriorly on the right side.
Image 4 – compression occurring just before neural canal but displacing L4 nerve.
Image 5 – Neural Canals are patent.
After MRI results were reviewed patient was immediately referred for a neurosurgical consult. Neurosurgical consultation recommended that the patient is removed from his repetitive occupation for 2 weeks and begin oral steroid treatment. After a few weeks, the patient reported that he had significantly improved and is now able to perform all activities of daily living including work with no discomfort. Based upon the neurosurgeon’s recommendation, collaborative care with chiropractic treatment will commence ensuring biomechanical stability.
NOTE ON STEROID USE WITH MECHANICAL SPINE ISSUES: Goldberg et al. (2015) reported: Despite conflicting evidence, epidural steroid injections are frequently offered under the assumption that radicular symptoms are caused by inflammation of the affected lumbar nerve root. Epidural steroid injections are invasive, generally, require a pre-procedure magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study and expose patients to fluoroscopic radiation. Also, the US Food and Drug Administration recently warned of rare, but serious neurologic sequella from [epidural steroid injections]. Oral administration of steroid medication may provide similar anti-inflammatory activity, does not require an MRI or radiation exposure, can be delivered quickly by primary care physicians, carries less risk, and would be much less expensive than an [epidural steroid injection]. Oral steroids are used by many community physicians, have been included in some clinical guidelines, and are noted as a treatment option by some authors. However, no appropriately powered clinical trials of oral steroids for radiculopathy have been conducted to date. To address this issue, we performed a parallel-group, double-blind, randomized clinical trial of a 15-day tapering course of oral prednisone vs. placebo for patients with acute lumbar radiculopathy associated with a herniated lumbar disk... (p. 1916).
Results showed that “participants in both blinded treatment groups showed an improvement in symptoms over the initial 6 weeks, with more gradual reductions until the 24-week visit, after which changes were more variable. Baseline ODI [Oswestry Disability Index] scores were 51.2 and 51.1 in the prednisone and placebo groups, respectively; corresponding ODI scores at 3 weeks were 32.2 and 37.5” (Goldberg, 2015, p. 1919-1920). This indicates that both at 3 and 6 weeks there was no difference in the placebo vs. oral steroid groups. “Among patients with acute radiculopathy due to a herniated lumbar disk, a short course of oral steroids, compared with placebo, resulted in modest improvement in function and no significant improvement in pain” (Goldberg, 2015, p.1922)
Although the patient presented with some classical signs of disc injury, some signs of disc injury were not present: Antalgia, numbness or tingling in the lower extremity or loss of bowel or bladder control. The outstanding feature of this case was the motor deficit noted in the right anterior tibialis and right extensor hallux longus muscle both having their roots in L4 and L5. It is important to note, however, that positive orthopedic testing with production radicular pain without motor or sensory loss is still an indication for advanced imaging particularly with straight leg raise (SLR) and slumps test3. One study showed that adding hyperextension test and Bell test to the straight leg raise test have shown to be more sensitive and specific than the SLR test alone4. The patient had not been evaluated by any other physician before being evaluated by us. This is a clear example although the patient did not have all the signs indicating acute disc injury, severe disc injury indeed occurred. The patient’s inability to axial load during a range of motion testing is also demonstrated by the two acute annular fissures as noted above. Chiropractic manipulation is contraindicated in this case due to the severe extruded disc at L3-L4 with migration. Advanced imaging, particularly Magnetic resonance imaging, in this patient’s case significantly improved our ability to give an accurate diagnosis and prognosis of their condition.