US Chiropractic Directory Presents:
Neck problems are one of the most prevalent issues that people worldwide suffer. Neck pain has been called torticollis, stiff neck and a host of other names, however to the public, it is literally a "pain in the neck." Chiropractic has been safely and effectively helping patents with pain in the neck for over 100 years and The US Chiropractic Directory has create a forum of information combining the entire healthcare and scientific community to bring the public evidenced and researched based answers on how and why chiropractic works to help those with neck pain/problems.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Mark Studin
In a conversation with Jonathan Epstein, an epidemiologist at the EcoHealth Alliance in New York who has traveled the globe in studying zoonotic viruses—those that can jump from animals to people, and was part of the research team in China’s Guandong Province that discovered bats were the natural reservoir for SARS, I now understand that the current COVID-19 strain is related to SARS and MERS, two other recently emergent zoonotic coronaviruses. These viruses live in certain bat species and have co-evolved with bats for the entire span of human civilization. Dr. Epstein explained, “These viruses are made up of RNA and can mutate quickly, making them promiscuous. Often, when a virus jumps from its natural host (e.g. bats) to a new host (e.g. people) it can cause disease. A virus that transmits easily and doesn’t readily kill its host has the best chance to survive in nature.”
A German study published just as a few weeks ago revealed that the coronavirus is an outstanding “shedder” and seeks to leave its host once it replicates. It searches mucosal exists, even our breath well before the host is experiencing symptoms. The New Yorker Magazine reported, “Outside a host, in parasitical purgatory, a virus is inert, not quite alive, but not dead, either. It was found that the virus can linger on copper for four hours, on a piece of cardboard for twenty-four hours, and on plastic or stainless steel for as long as three days. They also found that the virus can survive, for three hours, floating through the air, transmitted by the tiny respiratory droplets as an infected person exhales, sneezes, or coughs out.”
Living in New York, at the epicenter of this crisis and now self-isolated for 17 days, this is eerily reminiscent of 9-11 to many New Yorkers where we know someone infected, and someone knows someone who has lost their life. We live in fear for friends and families who are “hospital-based first responders,” and most everyone wants to be part of the solution. The Long Island Expressway dubbed the “longest parking lot in the world” is perpetually empty, and the largest railway commuter system on the planet hardly has a passenger. We are also fearful of others in our nation due to political “misinformation” because we are in the epicenter living and witnessing the truth through ourselves, family, and friends with confirmation through local media.
Where does that leave our profession?
I have spent the last two weeks becoming an expert on infectious disease prevention in chiropractic offices, telemedicine, home-based treatments, acquiring feedback from patients, risk management, coding, preserving referral sources, managing finances, and labor/employment laws. I have been teaching doctors how to prepare for “opening day” that will come sooner than you think and a host of other things chiropractic would have never considered.
For those who have chosen to stay open, the patient’s car in the parking lot has become the new waiting room, where one person at a time is allowed in the office for treatment. Most staff has been furloughed, leaving only the doctor and essential treating staff with hand and treatment table sanitizing between every patient. A mask for the doctor is strongly advised due to the “breath” transmission of this virus. If you treat a patient that has been diagnosed with Covid-19, you and your staff are then mandated by your state’s department of health to self-isolate for 15 days.
For those who have closed, telemedicine has become a necessity, and the Federal Government has relaxed its HIPAA rules, practicing over state line rule and others. Carriers have added chiropractic telemedicine services, and many have waived co-pays and deductibles because these are billable events. There have been recent E-Codes added by the AMA to create clarity in billing telemedicine codes. You should consider using modifier “95” [telemedicine services], and place of service “02” [telemedicine]. These are predominantly timed services involving patient management and have specific documentation requirements to consider.
If you would like to learn more about coding and other COVID-19 issues, I am providing a link for a 40-minute Webinar I created for the profession to help clarify these issues [there is no cost]:
There is lots of money in the system right now with the Federal Bail-Out, but be careful not to borrow what you don’t need and start with your local bank. They have the Federally backed money that includes some type of forgiveness in the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). I have also been told by many on Wall Street that inflation is not far away. Should you have a variable rate, or high-interest loan on any property, now is the time to refinance with interest rates low. Be financially smart.
Patient communication is paramount now. You do not want to see yourself re-starting your practice from “ground-zero” because you neglected to engage them during this mandatory isolation time. If you regularly have telemedicine visits, that is great; if not, ensure you touch base with them periodically via telephone to “check on them.” The same goes for lawyers and MD’s that you have referral relationships with, communicate with them. We have instituted regular academic programs for lawyers and MD‘s to keep them engaged with our doctors at a very high level. Opening day is coming sooner than you think, and the referral sources will remember you, if you made that extra effort.
What you do with your time is critical. I urge every chiropractor in the nation to get better academically. Take as many online post-doctoral courses as you can. I don’t care if your state allows online courses or not. Market research has proven over the last decade; the more credentials a doctor of chiropractic has, the more they can help their patients, the more referral they get, and the financial bottom line goes up. Cleaning your garage with your extra free time is admirable, but elevating your knowledge will help the multitudes in your community, yourself included.
Should you open if you have the opportunity or not? That is a personal question for you to answer. For me, I want to be part of the solution, and today is day 17 of being self-isolated, where I work long days and sleepless nights in being creative to ensure that I am prepared for opening day.
 Woelfel, R., Corman, V. M., Guggemos, W., Seilmaier, M., Zange, S., Mueller, M. A., ... & Bleicker, T. (2020). Clinical presentation and virological assessment of hospitalized cases of coronavirus disease 2019 in a travel-associated transmission cluster. medRxiv.
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.
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.
Chiropractic Adjustments Increases Maximal Bite Forces Through Effecting Cortical Changes
By: Mark Studin
William J. Owens
Citation: Studin M., Owens W. (2019) Chiropractic Adjustments Increase Maximal Bite Forces Through Effecting Cortical Changes, American Chiropractor, 41 (1) 12, 14, 16
A report on the scientific literature
Chiropractic has been shown in the literature to affect neural plastic changes. According to Wikipedia, “Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity and neural plasticity, is the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual's life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time. Research in the latter half of the 20th century showed that many aspects of the brain can be altered (or are "plastic") even through adulthood. However, the developing brain exhibits a higher degree of plasticity than the adult brain. Neuroplasticity can be observed at multiple scales, from microscopic changes in individual neurons to larger-scale changes such as cortical remapping in response to injury.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity) This article focuses on a specific piece of evidence to demonstrably verify the effects of those neuroplastic changes as sequella to a chiropractic “high velocity-low amplitude spinal adjustment.
Haavik, Ozyurt, Naizi, Holt, Nefergaard, Yilmaz and Turker (2018) reported “It has previously been proposed in the literature that chiropractic spinal manipulation has a central neural effect. This is because multiple studies have shown that spinal manipulation of dysfunctional spinal segments can impact somatosensory processing, sensorimotor integration, and motor control.” (pg. 6) Haavik, Naizi, Jochumsen, Sherwin, Flavel and Turker (2017) supported the previous finding by reporting “The result presented 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. Spinal manipulation may therefore be indicated for the patients who have lost tonus of their muscle and/or are recovering from muscle degrading dysfunctions such as stroke or orthopedic operations and/or may also be of interest to sports performers.” (pg. 12)
Lelic, Niazi, Jochumsen, Dremstrup, Velder, Murphy, Drewes and Haavik (2016) also supported the neural plastic changes of a chiropractic spinal adjustment by reporting their “study resulted in two major findings. Firstly, the study reproduced previous findings of somatosensory evoked potential (SEPs) studies that have shown that chiropractic spinal adjusting of dysfunctional spinal segments alters early sensorimotor integration (SMI) of input from the upper limb. The second major finding of this study was that we were able to show, using dipole source localization, that this change in SMI that occurs after spinal manipulation predominantly happens in the prefrontal cortex. The SEP peak showed multiple neural generators including primary sensory cortex, basal ganglia, thalamus, premotor areas, and primary motor cortex. The frontal N30 peak is therefore thought to reflect early SMI.”
Haavik, Ozyurt, Naizi, Holt, Nefergaard, Yilmaz and Turker (2018) also found “The major finding of this study was that chiropractic spinal manipulation (adjustment) increased maximum bite force immediately after the intervention and the increase in bite force remained at 1-week follow-up. This is the first study to show that a single session of chiropractic spinal manipulation can increase jaw bite strength compared to a sham intervention.
This immediate increase in jaw bit force of 11% post spinal manipulation was unlikely to be due to the placebo effect, as all subjects were naïve to chiropractic, and most of the subjects did not know which intervention was real upon questioning after both interventions. The 2.3% decrease in maximum bite force after the sham intervention may have been due to fatigue from maximum biting on the mold, or simply due to random variations in maximum efforts.
The current study now also suggests that cervical spine function can influence maximal bite force. The effort with which the subject’s bite would also influence maximum bite force, and for this reason the study was conducted in Turkey, where chiropractic is relatively unknown, to enable a more effective sham intervention. As no increase in strength occurred following the sham intervention, the effort is unlikely to have been the reason the subjects’ bite force increased after the spinal manipulation.
Increases in lower limb muscle strength in subjects with subclinical pain following chiropractic spinal manipulation has been reported. An increase in lower limb strength in elite athletes that lasted 30 min post spinal manipulation was shown. Chilibeck, et al. reported that in subjects with imbalances in lower limb muscle strength, spinal manipulation resulted in increased muscle strength of hip abductors in their weak leg. Botelho and Andrade reported increases in grip strength in a group of national level judo athletes following spinal manipulation.”
Haavik et. Al continued, “In two of these previous studies that showed lower limb muscle maximum voluntary strength increases after chiropractic spinal manipulation H-reflex excitability and V-waves were also recorded. Both studies showed increases in maximum plantarflexion force and significant increases in the cortical drive to the plantar flexors (i.e., V-wave) following spinal manipulation, and that both these measures significantly decreased after the control intervention… The increase therefore seen following the spinal manipulations was, therefore, most likely because of the increased cortical drive to the muscle.”
“It has previously been proposed in the literature that chiropractic spinal manipulation has a central neural effect. This is because multiple studies have shown that spinal manipulation of dysfunctional spinal segments can impact somatosensory processing, sensorimotor integration, and motor control as mentioned in the introduction. This current study supports this notion, as spinal manipulation appears to alter maximum biting force in this group of subjects. This study, therefore, supports the growing body of research that suggests chiropractic spinal manipulation’s main effect is neuroplastic in nature that affects cortical excitability.”
“Spinal dysfunction, even 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, suggesting spinal dysfunction can alter the brains inner body schema and maps of the body and the world around us. This may be because spinal manipulation has been shown to change both cerebellum-M1 processing as well as prefrontal cortex processing. In the current study, the subjects’ mild spinal dysfunction may have altered the somatosensory input from the neck to the brain centers involved in sensorimotor integration and motor control of the jaw, and that adjusting these dysfunctional segments therefore impacted on these same central regions altering the maximum bite force the subjects could perform.”
Haavik et. Al concluded “Knowing that spinal function can have an impact on jaw function has functional implications for patient populations. It is possible that chiropractic spinal manipulation may influence the clinical outcomes for patients with TMJ disorders, as has been suggested by individual case studies.” There are also a significant amount of other applications of maximal bite force in our population that would also benefit from a chiropractic spinal adjustment when clinically indicated.
What’s not to be lost in this reporting of the literature as mentioned previously “multiple studies have shown that spinal manipulation of dysfunctional spinal segments can impact somatosensory processing, sensorimotor integration, and motor control.” There is a myriad of signs, symptoms, conditions and disease process that emanate from the malfunction of those centrally controlled functions in the human body. Although we have proven that a chiropractic spinal adjustment positively affects these functions, we are still at the forefront of fully understanding the full extent of how the adjustment influences a patient’s overall health although these authors have seen evidence clinically for almost four decades and chiropractors since 1895 have been reporting the same.
The Legal and Appropriate Use of X-Ray in Chiropractic
To Consider the American Chiropractic Association's “Choose Wisely” X-Ray Recommendations is a Potential Public Risk
[to view any of the author's credentials, please click on their name]
NOTE: After the references is visual evidence of why x-ray should not be limited in chiropractic
Let’s be very clear on who determines the appropriateness and necessity of chiropractic clinical practice including x-ray, it is the state licensure boards of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California and all the rest to the 50th state alphabetically through Wyoming. These authors are perplexed as to why a political organization, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), has deliberately inserted itself between the practicing doctor of chiropractic and their individual state licensure boards which has quickly delivered its negative effects by limiting the diagnostic tools and reimbursement of chiropractors nationally. Additionally, instead of working towards and supporting increased access to chiropractic care they are consuming limited financial and personnel resources and those of other political organizations by pushing an agenda crafted by a distinct minority of the profession. This is despite our state licensure boards laws and regulations that already regulate the appropriate utilization of x-ray in chiropractic.
To think that this doesn’t have a far-reaching negative effect on your practice and reimbursement is Pollyannaish, as these authors predicted in their 2017 article “Should Chiropractic Follow the American Chiropractic Association/American Board of Internal Medicine’s Recommendation on X-Ray? (1), because it has already happened and will continue to happen. To further outline the gravity of the issue and lend objective evidence that the American Chiropractic Association is now cause for limitation of your services and reimbursement, ACA President R. Ray Tuck in an official ACA capacity, wrote to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois the following letter on July 31, 2018:
“I write to you on behalf of the American Chiropractic Association ("ACA") in connection with the above-referenced coverage policy recently adopted by your company. We note that the coverage policy references a "Choosing Wisely" article entitled ‘Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question and utilizes portions of the article as coverage standards.
Permit me to bring to your attention the following disclaimer appearing on the ‘Choosing Wisely’ web page:
‘Note: Choosing Wisely recommendations should not be used to establish coverage decisions or exclusions. Rather, they are meant to spur conversation about what is an appropriate and necessary treatment. As each patient situation is unique, providers and patients should use the recommendations as guidelines to determine an appropriate treatment plan together.’ (emphasis added)
Conveying information not intended or designed to be coverage standards as such, while at the same time attributing such standards to this association, conveys an unfair and false impression. This action also, in our view, constitutes a violation of the Illinois Unfair Claims Practices Act by knowingly misrepresenting relevant facts relating to coverage issues (215 ILCS 5/154.6(a)).
We, therefore, would request your company's immediate attention to this matter and the withdrawal of all coverage standards derived from the ‘Choosing Wisely’ article from the Chiropractic Services coverage policy.”
To review the American Chiropractic Association’s Choosing Wisely guidelines that were released in 2017, especially in regard to how they relate to imaging our patients in a clinical setting, they state “Do not obtain spinal imaging for patients with acute low-back pain during the six (6) weeks after onset in the absence of red flags.” (2) This controversial recommendation was adopted in conjunction with the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation and Consumer Reports.
The ACA has continued to support their position by writing articles in support of their own internal decision. Christine Goertz DC, Ph.D. wrote in an article titled Choosing Wisely X-ray Recommendations Reflect Evolving Evidence, Accepted Standards: “This recommendation is not only on ACA’s Choosing Wisely® list; a similar item is also included on the lists of seven other organizations. This includes, among others, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the North American Spine Society and the American College of Physicians. It's also one of the performance measures established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) under the MIPS Program. Thus, it is a widely accepted standard.” It should be noted, while the three groups that Dr. Goertz cited above, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the North American Spine Society and the American College of Physicians, are all held in high regard, we have to examine this fact at a deeper academic level. Regarding the North American Spine Society, their recommendations specifically state they “Do not recommend advanced imaging (MRI) of the spine within the first six weeks in patients with non-specific acute low back pain in the absence of red flags.” Their recommendations do not include x-ray. (3)The American College of Physicians, as an organization, represent internal medicine physicians and while we recognize they are focused on the diagnosis and management of systemic disease, they do not have advanced training in musculoskeletal or biomechanical spine diagnosis and are not trained as spine specialists.
Dr. John Edwards, a neurosurgeon from Provo, Utah wrote:
December 1, 2018
Dear Dr. Studin,
I would like to commend you for the work you have done to integrate chiropractic into higher education, medical research, and the medical community.
Over the past few years in my neurosurgical practice, I have understood more and more the value of biomechanical testing and treatment as the foundation for spinal care. I have discovered what you have known for years-biomechanical failures in the spine do not respond nearly as well to narcotics, steroids, injections, and surgery, as they do to chiropractic spinal adjusting.
Plain x-ray of the spine is the foundation of biomechanical diagnosing and biomechanical treatment, and supplemented with MRI as needed, enables the chiropractor as a primary spinal provider to triage patient care and initiate treatment as clinically indicated.
I think it is appropriate for the American Board of Internal Medicine to limit the frequency with which their providers are ordering diagnostic spinal tests, but inappropriate to hold this same standard to chiropractors. Internists generally know little about how to diagnose and treat spinal conditions. However, as a well-trained chiropractor, you understand when to order these tests. You can interpret them. You have validated, low cost, low-risk interventions that you can implement for treatment.
I hope the biomechanically trained chiropractor will be valued, validated, and viewed as the most important primary care spinal provider in the future. In our low access, high cost, high-risk health care system, the high access, low cost, low-risk management chiropractors can provide should be embraced by the entire medical community.
Although state licensure boards have spoken loudly in their historical support of doctors of chiropractic having the right to take x-rays within their lawful scope of practice, let’s examine the list of other organizations that have no such x-ray recommendation like the ACA has adopted. These groups are arguably in a better position to provide recommendations as they relate to and represent doctors with advanced training in spinal care and diagnosis. This list includes the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the North American Spine Society, the American College of Radiology, the American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. These organizations have far more experience when dealing with x-rays and how they relate to treating patients for spine pain particularly in the diagnosis of spinal disorders. The ACA should have consulted with these groups before providing their recommendations for the Choosing Wisely program. Instead they sided with organizations consisting of non-spine specialties while choosing to ignore those with advanced training.
Plain film radiographs are clinically indicated to both asses anatomical (space occupying lesion, fracture, tumor or infection) and biomechanical pathology directed by thorough clinical evaluation. In the absence of an anatomical source of pathology and spine pain, associated it is critical that aberrant biomechanical motion is assessed. These paradoxical biomechanical diagnoses indicate failure of the surrounding spinal ligaments and/or tendons demonstrating the mechanical source of the ensuing nociceptive, mechanoreceptive and proprioceptive neuropathological cascade. Fedorak, Ashworth, Marshall, and Paull (2003) reported: “This study has shown that the visual assessment of cervical and lumbar lordosis is unreliable. This tool only has fair intra-rater reliability and poor interrater reliability. Visual assessment of spinal posture was previously shown to be inaccurate, and this study has demonstrated that is reliability is poor.” (4). In contrast, the reliability of x-ray in morphology, measurements, and biomechanics has been determined accurate and reproducible. Additionally, Ohara, Miyamoto, Naganawa, Matsumoto, and Shimzu (2006) reported, “Assessment of the sagittal alignment of the spine is important in both clinical and research settings… and it is known that the alignment affects the distribution of the load on the intervertebral discs”(5)
In a recent informal survey of 400 doctors of chiropractic nationally returning 152 responses asking “Does the clinical use of x-rays changes either your diagnosis, prognosis or treatment plan?” Out of 152 respondents, 98.42% of those surveyed, used x-rays in their clinical practices that changed either the diagnosis, prognosis and/or treatment plan for their patients. X-rays, and being able to visualize the biomechanical pathology in the absence of anatomical pathology, is vital to the chiropractic physician and the outcomes of their patients.
Some organizations, such as the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, have published recommendations stating, “Do not obtain spinal imaging for patients with acute “non-specific” low-back pain during the six (6) weeks after onset in the absence of red flags.” (6) Let us examine the term non-specific low back pain and how it relates to the clinical assessment of other professions outside chiropractic. Non-specific low back pain is low back pain without a known anatomical cause, meaning without structural pathology. Simply because there is no anatomical pathology present doesn’t mean the pain is “non-specific.” Doctors of chiropractic have long known the cause of non-specific low back pain, it has gone by various names, neuro-biomechanical lesions, biomechanical lesions, subluxation, vertebral subluxation complex, and spinal fixation.
Gedin et. Al (2018) reported, “it has been estimated that the vast majority of back pain cases is of non-specific origin. (7) The concept of simply focusing on the anatomical component of spine pain patients would render chiropractic no different than any other health profession. When focusing on the “non-specific” nature of spine pain, the focus must be on the biomechanical pathological component since the anatomical correlation is missing or does not correlate. The direction of care should be to the biomechanical compensation and individual motor units of the spine with a particular focus on spinal function and balance. Previous literature has verified that the supposition that “non-specific” is synonymous with “unobjectifiable” is erroneous since definite biomechanical changes in the motor units of the spine cause alterations of spinal balance, therefore resulting in “very specific” biomechanical pathology causing pain syndromes.
Panjabi in 1992, who had led the laboratory-based research into biomechanical spine pain, presented a detailed work explaining how the biomechanical systems within the human spine react to the external 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.” (8)
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.” (8) Panjabi’s laboratory is where the idea of biomechanical compensation was conceptualized and proven.
Panjabi’s evidence 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 inaccurately “non-specific.” This concept and approach to spine care continue to maintain a dogmatic perspective in both clinical decision making, provider reimbursement and all too often, the literature, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.
A recent study by Scheer et al. (2016) reports a biomechanical assessment of the spine as critical to spine care including spine surgery. This concept was originally presented at the 2015 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves. The authors state “The cervical spine plays a pivotal role in influencing adjacent and global spinal alignment as compensatory changes occur to maintain horizontal gaze. Concomitant cervical positive sagittal alignment (loss of cervical lordosis) in adult patients with a thoracolumbar deformity is strongly associated with inferior outcomes and failure to reach minimal clinically important difference at 2-year follow-up compared with patients without cervical deformity.” (9) Here we see additional evidence that spinal biomechanical modeling has an effect even in the presence of severe anatomical pathology requiring surgical intervention. In this case, it was even in an adjacent spinal region to the surgical site!
The scientific literature and certainly the surgical community is showing that thorough biomechanical assessment of the patient is a critical component to spine care, particularly in the complex spine pain patient. Without x-rays, the doctor is simply guessing.
One of the primary caveats stated in the ACA’s Choosing Wisely suggestions to not take spinal x-rays is the patient’s exposure to ionizing radiation. Patients routinely ask us about the radiation effects of x-rays, therefore it is imperative that we look at the facts, not the deceptive rhetoric that is so often quoted. According to a recent article from April 2018 by Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School titled Radiation Risk from Medical Imaging, they state that the average effective dose of a lumbar x-ray is 1.5 mSv. (10) According to the Radiological Society of North America in an article published April 2009 titled The Linear No-Threshold Relationship Is Inconsistent with Radiation Biologic and Experimental Data, they state “Among humans, there is no evidence of a carcinogenic effect for acute irradiation at doses less than 100 mSv and for protracted irradiation at doses less than 500 mSv.” They go on to state “There are potent defenses against the carcinogenic effects of ionizing radiation. Their efficacy is much higher for low doses and dose rates; this is incompatible with the LNT (linear no-threshold) model but is consistent with current models of carcinogenesis.” (11) As one can clearly see, the ionizing radiation effects of taking a set of lumbar x-rays is well below the minimum dosage to have a carcinogenic effect.
The following is a sampling of responses received by the Academy of Chiropractic, these responses were received from an informal survey of doctors of chiropractic nationwide. The instructions were to send over x-rays demonstrating ONLY ANATOMICAL PATHOLOGY and a brief history taken in their offices, many of which showed significant anatomical pathology in the absence of “red flags.” These responses underscore why the options for doctors of chiropractic should not be limited by politics, but instead should be driven by clinical assessment and scientific data. This myopic vision will create a public health risk and is integral in creating an accurate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan for our patients particularly in those patients with spine pain not specific to an anatomical lesion. As responsible doctors of chiropractic, we and the profession urge the American Chiropractic Association not to amend it's policy on Choose Wisely, but to rescind its x-ray “suggestions” in any and all formats. Furthermore, terminate all efforts in recommending anything other than each doctor follow their scope of practice in their respective states regarding the utilization of x-ray in clinical practice and the care of their patients. The chiropractic profession needs a strong political advocate and the American Chiropractic Association has historically been a major component in successfully filiing that need, however we need a powerful voice to unite us and not create further division within our profession or waste our valuable and limited resources.
NOTE: Below the references is visual evidence of why x-ray should not be limited in chiropractic
NOTE: The following does not comment or reflect biomechanical pathology or the negative sequela of having it go undiagnosed. That is a topic for a separate article.
The following is a sampling of responses we received from a survey of doctors nationwide 3 days prior to this publishing of this article. The instructions were to send over x-rays for ONLY ANATOMICAL PATHOLGY and a brief history taken in their office within the last 3 months. These responses underscore why the utilization for chiropractors should not be limited as it will create a public health risk and is integral in creating an accurate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan for our patients. As responsible doctors of chiropractic we and the profession urge the American Chiropractic Association to terminate all efforts in recommending anything other than each doctor follow their scope of practice in their respective states regarding the utilization of x-ray in clinical practice.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
17 year old male with chronic mid back pain from high school wrestling. Found a compression fracture.
Burst Fracture - Metastatic Cancer
Patient presented upper lumbar pain, adamant that he was cancer free, no problems whatsoever, had been cleared by PCP and oncologist in past, just "needed an adjustment" and was actually rather angry that I would not perform adjustment or treat the day of his exam.
C2 Dens Fracture
This patient is a 25-year-old female with a history of a roll-over accident 10 years ago and recurrent neck pain. During history she said "I think they said something about a neck fracture".
Lumbar Transverse Process Fracture
This patient was referred by an ENT/Facial Plastic Surgeon for evaluation of TMJ/Neck pain. The patient had the mass surgically removed.
Patient was experiencing lower extremity radicular pain. Saw a PT 6 times and a DC 6 times with no relief. Then came to me. I found the Spondylolisthesis. He is doing great without any symptoms now.
L5 Metastatic Cancer
Onset of low back pain and sciatica. X-ray revealed enlargement of L5 spinous process. Patient was reluctant to get MRI. And then I had to fight with insurance carrier to get it authorized. But the x-rays revealed a problem. MRI confirmed metastatic lesion L5-S1 and posterior elements of L5.
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
Patient came in complaining of neck pain. Never once stated a prior neck surgery in either the paperwork or when asking about past surgeries.
Congenital Fused Vertebra
C2 Dens Instability
54 year old male delivery driver, acute on chronic onset of low back pain constant 7/10 and neck pain intermittent 5/10 for years. Seen by numerous chiropractors and medical doctors for 30+ years, taking medication for psoriasis. Patient stated that he did not need x-rays just an adjustment and he would be on his way. After x-rays I told the patient go to Kaiser and see a neurosurgeon, I refused to treat and showed him the instability. He protested and said "you are just a f_ _ _ing chiropractor and I have seen many medical doctors over the years and no one has told me anything like I might need surgery. I called him later that day and he did go to Kaiser hospital and was seen immediately a spine specialist.
Thoracic Compression Fracture
56 year old male lifting heavy coffee table 1 week prior, mid back pain acute. No insurance, did not want to spend the money on x-rays. No significant health history.
Lumbar Anterolisthesis of L3
Spinal Fusion from T1-L3
I was asked by an attorney to review a case of a 16 year old female with persistent headaches and neck pain with bilateral paresthesia in her left and right hands. He said he doesn't think she has much of a case. She was involved in a side collision with a pickup truck with a plow in a 30 mph zone. She was evaluated with CT of head and X-rays of neck and back and released by Children's hospital the same day. She has undergone a year of physical therapy for cervicalgia and neurologist for post traumatic headaches. She has 6 degrees of active extension with pain and 48 degrees of active flexion with pain. So I asked for the hospital records including copies of diagnostic imaging for my review. The cervical spine imaging report stated: "unremarkable cervical radiograph without evidence of acute osseous abnormalities." Well I have attached the lateral view for you, which I must strongly disagree with and contacted the radiologist regarding. He asked me at first why I was reviewing the films. I stole your line and said "real doctor's read their own films, would you want a surgeon doing surgery on you without looking at the films." The reply was "good point." He also agreed to write the addendum. I then advised the attorney of my findings and the text message said, "HOLY S!@#! WOW that makes so much sense."
17 year old female presented with lower back pain after baton twirling practice. No trauma. Spondylolysis of L4 most visible on the right posterior oblique.
Note multiple pathologic compression fractures and lysis of right ischial tuberosity. Turned out to be multiple myeloma, Stage 4. L3 is post vertebroplasty.
68 year old male with severe low back and right leg pain. Radiographs exhibit dextrocurvature, severe degeneration and a grade1-2 spondylolisthesis.
AC Joint Separation
Fractured Styloid and Radius
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.