Richard A. Laviano DC




The patient was a very pleasant 43-year-old male presenting to the clinic with acute onset of low back pain that started 7 days ago after performing some heavy lifting at work. The pain was in the lumbosacral region and right sacral leg joint region and surrounding musculature that radiated into the posterior aspect of the right leg. No numbness or tingling was present. No loss of bowel or bladder control. Any type of movement that involves bending and twisting greatly exacerbates the pain. The pain is constant and especially worse in the mornings. The patient presented with inability to fully weight-bear on the right leg and thus presented with a right limp.

The patient indicated that he had not experienced prior symptoms similar to his current complaints and was symptom-free at the time of the incident above. The patient’s medical, surgical, and family history was unremarkable. He is a healthy Hispanic male.


His superficial appearance did not indicate any apparent distress. Further, observation showed minor’s sign to be present. This sign is present when the patient, in arising from a chair, leans forward, jackknifing the thighs and the dorso-lumbar spine so that the head is over the feet. Using the hands on the thighs or the arms of the chair, the patient pushes the body to an upright position, thus sparing lower limb effort. The presence of this sign is usually indicative of sciatica. There was no apparent spine tilt with him standing upright.

The patient was 5 feet 8 inches at 156 pounds, well-developed with a body temperature of 99.2°F. His blood pressure was slightly elevated at 149/81 mm Hg and a heart rate at 72 beats per minute. On examination, the eyes, ears, and throat appeared normal.

Gait analysis reveals complete loss of normal gait pattern greatly favoring his left leg.

The patient’s range of motion was decreased in all ranges with pain and spasm in the erector spinae muscles including the iliocostalis lumborum and iliocostalis thoracics muscles bilaterally. Muscles of the lower extremity were 5 out of 5 for all muscles in the left leg. A 3 out of 5 test was noted in right anterior tibialis muscle and right extensor hallucis longus muscle. No atrophy was noted. The patient’s deep tendon reflexes of the upper and lower extremities were noted to be a 2+ rating bilaterally for patellar and Achilles. Cranial nerve testing also showed to be normal. The patient had normal sensation symmetrically and bilaterally.

Orthopedic testing showed positive straight leg raise test both in the supine and seated position (slumps) with reproduction of patient shooting pain along the posterior aspect of the right leg with a patient audible response due to the severity of pain. Bechterew’s test also showed positive on the right side.

Palpation of the lumbar spine showed tenderness along L3-L5 facet joints and surrounding musculature. Spasming noted in during palpation of the erector spinae muscles bilaterally. Edema is noted in this region as well.


A full spine weight bearing radiographic study was taken (utilizing views: APOM, AP cervical, AP Thoracic, AP lumbopelvic, lateral cervical, lateral thoracic, and lateral lumbar). An MRI of the lumbar spine was also ordered immediately before beginning treatment. See figures below.

Radiographic Imaging:

The radiographic study showed loss of normal lumbar lordosis consistent with an acute injury. No degenerative changes are present. Neural foramina appear patent. No evidence of fracture or dislocation. A moderate left list of the lumbar spine is noted consistent with a disc injury. Acetabular joints appear normal. The adjacent soft tissue appears normal.

Image 1 – loss of lumbar lordosis with left list, Antalgia, seen on radiograph.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging:

MRI Study was reviewed, and findings included: Marrow edema was normal with no signs of fracture. The vertebral alignment showed loss of normal lumbar lordosis and caddy lever appearance of L3 on L4. Hemangiomas noted at L1 and L5 in trabecular bone vertebral bodies. Conus medullaris and cauda equina appear normal. There is a T2 hyperintense signal cystic structure noted at the posterior aspect of the conus medullaris at T12-L1. This is incompletely evaluated in this study. L1-L2 appears normal with no stenosis of the neural foramina or central canal. L2-L3 shows posterior central annular fissure. The high signal in this fissure indicates it is acute. No central canal or neural foraminal stenosis. L3-L4 showed mild disc bulging with a superimposed right paracentral disc extrusion1 at L3-L4 with migration inferior-ward displacing the thecal sac and the fourth lumbar nerve root before it reaches the L4-L5 neural canal on the right. L4-L5 shows moderate disc bulging with a superimposed posterior left paracentral disc protrusion type herniation with an annular fissure. Due to the high signal in this fissure, it is most likely acute. L5-S1 appears normal with no central canal or neural foraminal stenosis. Recommendations included a thoracic spine study to assess cystic lesion as noted above. Immediate neurosurgical consultation is also recommended. See Images 2 through 5 below.

Image 2 – extrusion herniation with inferior migration.

Image 3 – displacement of thecal sac posteriorly on the right side.

Image 4 – compression occurring just before neural canal but displacing L4 nerve.

Image 5 – Neural Canals are patent.

After MRI results were reviewed patient was immediately referred for a neurosurgical consult. Neurosurgical consultation recommended that the patient is removed from his repetitive occupation for 2 weeks and begin oral steroid treatment. After a few weeks, the patient reported that he had significantly improved and is now able to perform all activities of daily living including work with no discomfort. Based upon the neurosurgeon’s recommendation, collaborative care with chiropractic treatment will commence ensuring biomechanical stability.

NOTE ON STEROID USE WITH MECHANICAL SPINE ISSUES: Goldberg et al. (2015) reported: Despite conflicting evidence, epidural steroid injections are frequently offered under the assumption that radicular symptoms are caused by inflammation of the affected lumbar nerve root. Epidural steroid injections are invasive, generally, require a pre-procedure magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study and expose patients to fluoroscopic radiation. Also, the US Food and Drug Administration recently warned of rare, but serious neurologic sequella from [epidural steroid injections]. Oral administration of steroid medication may provide similar anti-inflammatory activity, does not require an MRI or radiation exposure, can be delivered quickly by primary care physicians, carries less risk, and would be much less expensive than an [epidural steroid injection]. Oral steroids are used by many community physicians, have been included in some clinical guidelines, and are noted as a treatment option by some authors. However, no appropriately powered clinical trials of oral steroids for radiculopathy have been conducted to date. To address this issue, we performed a parallel-group, double-blind, randomized clinical trial of a 15-day tapering course of oral prednisone vs. placebo for patients with acute lumbar radiculopathy associated with a herniated lumbar disk... (p. 1916).

Results showed that “participants in both blinded treatment groups showed an improvement in symptoms over the initial 6 weeks, with more gradual reductions until the 24-week visit, after which changes were more variable. Baseline ODI [Oswestry Disability Index] scores were 51.2 and 51.1 in the prednisone and placebo groups, respectively; corresponding ODI scores at 3 weeks were 32.2 and 37.5” (Goldberg, 2015, p. 1919-1920). This indicates that both at 3 and 6 weeks there was no difference in the placebo vs. oral steroid groups. “Among patients with acute radiculopathy due to a herniated lumbar disk, a short course of oral steroids, compared with placebo, resulted in modest improvement in function and no significant improvement in pain” (Goldberg, 2015, p.1922) 


Although the patient presented with some classical signs of disc injury, some signs of disc injury were not present: Antalgia, numbness or tingling in the lower extremity or loss of bowel or bladder control. The outstanding feature of this case was the motor deficit noted in the right anterior tibialis and right extensor hallux longus muscle both having their roots in L4 and L5. It is important to note, however, that positive orthopedic testing with production radicular pain without motor or sensory loss is still an indication for advanced imaging particularly with straight leg raise (SLR) and slumps test3. One study showed that adding hyperextension test and Bell test to the straight leg raise test have shown to be more sensitive and specific than the SLR test alone4. The patient had not been evaluated by any other physician before being evaluated by us. This is a clear example although the patient did not have all the signs indicating acute disc injury, severe disc injury indeed occurred. The patient’s inability to axial load during a range of motion testing is also demonstrated by the two acute annular fissures as noted above. Chiropractic manipulation is contraindicated in this case due to the severe extruded disc at L3-L4 with migration. Advanced imaging, particularly Magnetic resonance imaging, in this patient’s case significantly improved our ability to give an accurate diagnosis and prognosis of their condition.


  1. David F. Fardon, MD, Alan L. Williams, MD, Edward J. Johring, MD, F. Reed Murtagh, MD, Stephen L. Gabriel Rothman, MD, Gordon K Se, MD. Lumbar disc nomenclature: Inversion 2.0 recommendations of the combined task forces of the North American Spine Society, the American Society of spine radiology and the American Society of Neuroradiology.
  2. Goldberg, H., Firtch, W., Tyburski, M., Pressman, A., Ackerson, L., Hamilton, L, Avins, A. L. (2015). Oral steroids for acute radiculopathy due to a herniated lumbar disk: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 313(19), 1915-1923.
  3. Majlesi J, Togay H, Unalan H, Toprak S. J Clin Rheumatol. The sensitivity and specificity of the Slump and the Straight Leg Raising tests in patients with lumbar disc herniation. 2008 Apr;14(2):87-91. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0b013e31816b2f99.
  4. Rob Simpson, Hugh Gemmell. Accuracy of spinal tests: a systematic review. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2006, 14:26.

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Published in Case Reports

Efficacy of Chiropractic Treatment for Post-Surgical Continued Low Back and Radicular Pain


81% of chiropractic post-surgical patients showed greater than 50% reduction in pain.


Mark Studin DC

William J. Owens DC


A report on the scientific literature


Park et. Al (2016) reported that low back pain radiating into the lower extremities have greater impact on disability and time off work that any other medical condition. Vleggeert-Lankamp, Arts and Jacobs (2013) reported “The term ‘failed back surgery syndrome’ (FBSS) is used to describe a clinical condition defined by persistent or recurrent complaints of leg pain and/or back pain regardless of one or more surgical procedures of the lumbar spine. The definition of FBSS (failed back surgery syndrome) is modified by some authors by adding that at least one surgical intervention was to be performed and that pain should persist after the last surgical intervention, for at least one year.1 The term implies that the surgery plays a role in the cause of the pain, although in most cases the surgical intervention was technically successful. It is known that nearly 20% of patients undergoing spine surgery will require secondary surgery for persistent pain or surgery-related complications during the subsequent years.” (pg. 48) El-Badawy and El Mikkawy (2016) reported that failed back surgery syndrome occurs with lateral disc surgery upwards of 17%, spinal stenosis 29% and instability 14.8%.


Perhaps the reason for failed back surgery syndrome is what the surgeons have considered their “gold standard, fusion and the ensuing loss of mobility of the spinal motor unit. Mulholland (2008) reported “Spinal fusion became what has been termed the “gold standard” for the treatment of mechanical low back pain, yet there was no scientific basis for this.” (pg. 619) The history of spinal fusion is both fascinating and disturbing and reveals why chiropractic both helps post-surgical cases and should always be considered first, prior to surgery as an option.

Mulholland (2008) continued:

In 1962 Harmon presented a review paper at the western orthopaedic association meeting in San Francisco, in which the term “Instability” appears.

However, Harmon’s description of what he meant by instability (unfortunately in a footnote) is revealing “Spinal instability refers to a low back-gluteal-thigh clinical triad of symptoms that may be accompanied (overt cases) by incapacitating regional weakness and pain. This is the effect of disk degeneration with or without disc hernia. Some may be asymptomatic or slightly symptomatic when instability is compensated by muscle or ligament control. It does not refer to spinous process or laminal hypermobility which some surgeons like to demonstrate at the operating table nor does this clinical concept parallel the common spinal hypermobility, which is the product of intervertebral disc degeneration, demonstrable in flexion-extension filming of the region, since the anatomic hypermobility is not always productive of symptoms”

Sadly this description of instability appears to have been ignored, and the concept of mechanical instability as a cause of back pain was progressively accepted. Harmon’s view of the effect of fusion was that it cured pain by reducing the irritation of the neural contents produced by movement. His paper was influential as he emphasized the importance of appropriate investigations prior to fusion and the segmental nature of back pain but unfortunately his use of the term instability was interpreted as supporting the view that segmental abnormal movement was the cause of the pain.

In 1965 Newman in an editorial concerning lumbo-sacral arthrodesis (surgical immobilization) refers to the need to stabilize the lumbar spine in patients with back pain after discectomy for a lumbar root entrapment.

At the beginning of the seventies the perception was that disc degeneration led to abnormal translational movement, and this was painful.

McNab in 1971 who had done much work on the disturbance of movement in the degenerate disc described what he termed the “traction spur,” a particular type of anterior osteophytes which he said was related to an abnormal pattern of translational movement. This view again supported the concept of instability. He added the important caveat that it “was impossible to establish the clinical significance of the traction spur as a statistically valid investigation the traction spur was revisited in the late eighties and was shown to be no different to claw osteophytes, and often both would be present in the same patient. It was not related to abnormal movement.”

Although McNab used the term instability, he used it in the sense that the spine was vulnerable to acute episodes of pain, because the degenerate disc rendered it more easily injured. He did not view it as a cause of chronic back pain.

Kirkaldy Willis set out his views on instability in 1982. In “Instability of the Lumbar Spine” he described the process of disc degeneration as passing through a stage of dysfunction, (intermittent pain), instability which caused more persistent pain but then with time stabilizing to a painless state. This was his explanation for the observed fact that many very degenerate discs were painless. However, he at that stage was somewhat unhappy with an entirely mechanistic view for pain. Hence, he writes “Instability can be defined as the clinical status of the patient with a back problem who with the least provocation steps from the mildly symptomatic to a severe episode”. Further he writes “Detectable increased motion does not always solicit a clinical response, and that abnormal motion may be abnormal increase or abnormal decrease”. He further writes “It is insufficient to detect the abnormal increased motion, but the mechanism by which it precipitates the symptomatic episode must also be identified”. Indeed in the seven cases he reported only one patient had backache alone, the others were all radicular problems. His paper shows that identifying abnormal movement establishes the fact that the segment is disordered, but he does not in that paper indicate that movement itself is the cause of pain.

Subsequently in his very influential book “Managing Back Pain” in 259 pages just one page is devoted to the rationale of lumbar fusion. The only reason for fusion appeared to be that, other treatments had failed, that it was reasonable from the psychological viewpoint, and that instability was present. Instability is defined elsewhere in the book as increased abnormal movement, and this is illustrated by x-rays purporting to show abnormal rotations and various types of abnormal tilt. He accepts that such appearances may be entirely painless, but in the patient with back pain they identify the causative level, and fusion is justified.

However, in a joint paper with Depuis in 1985 entitled “Radiological Diagnosis of Degenerative Lumbar instability” they write “A lumbar motion segment is considered unstable when it exhibits abnormal movements. The movement is abnormal in quality (abnormal coupling patterns) or in quality (abnormal increase of movement...) Pain is a signal of impending or actual tissue damage-and when present it indicates that a mechanical threshold has been reached or transgressed. Repeated transgressions will damage the stabilizing structures beyond physiological repair, thus putting abnormal demands on secondary restraints”.

Hence from being a method of identifying an abnormal degenerate disc, abnormal motion itself became the injurious agent.

In 1985 Pope and Panjabi in a paper entitled “Biomechanical definition of spinal instability” wrote “Instability is a mechanical entity and an unstable spine is one that is not in an optimal state of equilibrium. (...In the spine stability is affected by restraining structures that if damaged or lax will lead to altered equilibrium and thus instability. Instability is defined as a loss of stiffness”. Panjabi’s views were generally accepted by basic scientists interested in this field.

Subsequently Panjabi concluded that increased movement was not necessarily a feature of what he termed instability, but reduction in the neutral zone was. However, in a more recent paper he has abandoned the concept of instability altogether and ascribes chronic back pain as being caused by ligament sub-failure injuries leading to muscle control dysfunction.

However, throughout the period from the fifties to the nineties, the Panjabi view held sway, and the term instability evolved from being a useful term to denote a segment that was abnormal due to a degenerate disc, to a term denoting a diagnosis of an abnormal, (usually increased) pattern of movement with a translational component. The abnormal movement was thought to be the cause of the pain and clearly fusion or stopping movement was a logical treatment.

However, the inability to show that abnormal or increased movement was a feature peculiar to the painful degenerate disc, combined with the fact that despite more rigid fusions using pedicle fixation, the clinical results of fusion had not improved, was increasingly casting doubt on the concept of instability. The paper by Murata combining MRI examination with flexion and extension films in patients with back pain, showed that increased angular and translational movement was a feature of the normal or mildly degenerate disc, not of the markedly degenerate disc, where movements were reduced. In 1998 Kaigle et al. demonstrated that comparing patients with normal subjects there was always less movement present in the degenerate spine. It was therefore generally accepted that the effect of disc degeneration was to reduce movement not to increase it, as the term “instability” would imply. It may be argued that, unfortunately, this reduction of movement is associated with abnormal patterns of movement, and this is the meaning of “instability”. However despite considerable efforts over many years, using flexion/extension films, no clear relationship has been established between pain and such abnormal movements. In other words, patients with degenerative disc disease may exhibit abnormal patterns of movement yet have no pain.

By the mid-nineties, instability was still the term used to describe the disorder that we treated by fusion, but the failure to improve results by the introduction of pedicle fixation, caused many surgeons to question the concept of instability, but surgeons were all aware that fusion although unpredictable in terms of clinical result, was the best surgical treatment for chronic low back pain. It was well recognized that clinical success was unrelated to the success of the fusion, pseudarthrosis was as common amongst successful patients as in those who had failed. Was there anything else that a fusion did to the intervertebral disc unrelated to the fact that it stopped movement? (pgs. 619-623)

Mulholland (2008) concluded with a powerful statement that perhaps sums up why chiropractic realizes significant result when treating post-surgical cases.

Abnormal movement of a degenerated segment may be associated with back pain but is not causative. The concept of instability as a cause of back pain is a myth. The clinical results of any procedure that allows abnormal disc loading to continue are unpredictable. (pg. 624)

To underscore the point of fusion being a failed surgical paradigm in many patients, Gudavalli, Olding, Joachim, & Cox (2016) reported,

Surgical decompression of the lumbar spine in older patients had a 24% reoperation rate, and a 20-fold increase in lumbar surgical fusion rates among Medicare enrollees is reported. Lumbar cage fusion rates increased from 3.6% in 1996 to 58% in 2001, and the result was increased complication risk without improved disability or reoperation rates. Adjacent segment degenerative changes and instability at the level immediately above single-segment fusion with clinical deterioration are shown in up to 90% of the cases. The incidence of radiographic adjacent segment disease following fusion has been reported to be as high as 50% in the cervical spine and 70% in the lumbar spine at 10 years. However, the incidence of clinically relevant symptomatic adjacent segment disease is quite lower, estimated at 25% in the cervical spine and 36% in the lumbar spine at 10 years.


Comparing surgery with nonsurgical treatment for back and radicular pain shows that intensive rehabilitation is more effective than fusion surgery, and nonsurgical treatment of low back and radicular pain patients is reported to reduce lumbar disk surgery by approximately two-thirds. Chronic low back pain in 349 patients aged 18-55 years found no evidence that surgery was any more beneficial than intensive rehabilitation. A study of 600 single-operated low back patients showed that 71% did not return to work 4 years after surgery, and 400 multiple-operated backs showed that 95% did not return to work 4 years later. (pg. 124)


Gudavalli, Olding, Joachim, & Cox (2016) went on to report what has been found clinically effective in both pre and post-operative cases, "Treating lumbar disk herniation and spinal stenosis patients successfully with conservative care is documented. Chiropractic manipulation prior to spine surgery is appropriate. Previous reports of the biomechanical changes in the spine when CTFD (Cox technique, flexion-traction) spinal manipulation is applied include decreased intradiscal pressure; intervertebral disk foraminal area increase; increased intervertebral disk space height; and physiological range of motion of the facet joint." (pg. 124)


Regarding post-surgical care, Gudavalli, Olding, Joachim, & Cox (2016) concluded,


81% of the (post-surgical chiropractic) patients showed greater than 50% reduction in pain levels at the end of the last treatment. At 24-month follow-up, 78.6% had continued pain relief of greater than 50%. (pg. 121)


Although one of the goals of chiropractic care is pain relief, there are still the underlying biomechanical pathologies to consider that are concurrently treated while under chiropractic care. The more pressing issue in the post-surgical cases are “could these surgeries been avoided” in the first place with correcting the underlying biomechanical pathologies prior to surgery This underscores the overwhelming need for chiropractic as Primary Spine Care providers being the first treatment option. It goes back to the adage “drugless first, drugs seconds and surgery last.” It’s just common sense and chiropractic has been verified in numerous outcome studies proven to be the most effective 1st treatment option for spine.





  1. Park, K. B., Shin, J. S., Lee, J., Lee, Y. J., Kim, M. R., Lee, J. H., ... & Ha, I. H. (2017). Minimum clinically important difference and substantial clinical benefit in pain, functional, and quality of life scales in failed back surgery syndrome patients. Spine42(8), E474-E481.
  2. Vleggeert-Lankamp, C. L., Arts, M. P., Jacobs, W. C., & Peul, W. C. (2013). Failed back (surgery) syndrome: time for a paradigm shift. British journal of pain7(1), 48-55.
  3. El-Badawy, M. A., & El Mikkawy, D. M. (2016). Sympathetic dysfunction in patients with chronic low back pain and failed back surgery syndrome. The Clinical journal of pain32(3), 226-231.
  4. Mulholland, R. C. (2008). The myth of lumbar instability: the importance of abnormal loading as a cause of low back pain. European spine journal17(5), 619-
  5. Gudavalli, M. R., Olding, K., Joachim, G., & Cox, J. M. (2016). Chiropractic distraction spinal manipulation on postsurgical continued low back and radicular pain patients: a retrospective case series. Journal of chiropractic medicine15(2), 121-128.

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Published in Low Back Problems

Re-Integration of Lost Cervical Curve Post-Motor Vehicle Accident

Quantifying and Qualifying Injury and Recovery of the Lateral Cervical Curve by a Serial Examination of Injured Lateral Cervical Spine via Radiographs


By: Ray Wiegand, DC

Mark Studin DC.


A patient presented in January 2018 following a motor vehicle accident (MVA) to a chiropractor licensed in Colorado. This doctor, trained in x-ray digitization and utilizing the Analysis System Software, adjusted the full spine according to the computerized rendered conclusions that identified the primary biomechanical lesions of the spine while avoiding compensatory spinal segments. In the absence of any osteophytes, as per He and Xinghua (2006), verifies this is a recent injury vs. chronic and consistent with the MVA history as causality.






The patient demonstrates the findings of a sudden impact injury with severe loss of the cervical curve and forward head translation. Loss of the cervical curve and FHT (forward head translation) is the single common etiology of almost everyone with musculoskeletal complaints from an MVA, based upon the experience of the authors. The computer graphic above is for patient education, illustrating a normal cervical for comparison for the patient. In this case the patient was rated “Very Severe” for biomechanical severity with 19.3 mm of anterior head translation based upon digitization).

As patient positioning can influence the contour of the cervical curve, the patient's plane line of the teeth was in a neutral position for the neutral x-ray view. This creates a frame of reference for future comparison. According to Kapandji (1974), this position is the true neutral position of balanced head posture. Lifting the chin to obtain a neutral posture creates the opportunity for the patient to demonstrate more of a lordosis. But typically, they will not. In this example the patient head was in 17.9° of flexion which alters  upper cervical measurements.



Serial examination                  1/2018 compared to 5/2018




The patient is in natural neutral posture with the plane line of the teeth horizontal.



Post chiropractic spinal high velocity-low amplitude adjustments, the patient went from 206 spinal stress units (SSU) to 89.2 SSU. The SSU measures the patient’s geometric departure from a balanced uninjured lateral cervical curve. In this example the patient decreased in stress by 116.8 SSU. This represented going from 4 SD (standard deviations) from normal to 1 SD from normal.



Upon radiographic examination post MVA, the patient presented with a reversed cervical curve. Numerically, this was rated at 206 stress units and post chiropractic spinal high velocity-low amplitude adjustments the patient was reduced by 116.8 SSU units to a value of 89.2, resulting in a minimal of loss of curve as determined numerically. Visually, the patient’s cervical curve was returned to “near normal” with the plum line going from the posterior arch of C1 through the posterior body of C7.





  1. Kapandji, I.A. Physiology of the Joints, 2nd Edition, 1974.  New York, NY. Churchill Livingston, pg 44-45
  2. He, G., & Xinghua, Z. (2006). The numerical simulation of osteophyte formation on the edge of the vertebral body using quantitative bone remodeling theory. Joint Bone Spine 73(1), 95-101.

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Published in Case Reports

Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation

By Mark Studin

William J. Owens


Citation: Studin M., Owens W. (2018) Vertebral Subluxation Complex, American Chiropractor, 40 (7) 12, 14-16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26-27


A report on the scientific literature




Chiropractic was discovered in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer and further developed by his son, Bartlett James Palmer. Together, they helped coin the phrase “vertebral subluxation,” yet to date, there has been little evidence of it in the literature. When we consider neuro-biomechanical pathological lesions that will degenerate (please refer to Wolff’s Law) based upon homeostatic mechanisms in the human body we will better understand and be able to define the chiropractic vertebral subluxation and more specifically, the chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex (VSC). In addition, the literature has provided us with a vast amount of evidence on both the biomechanical dysfunction of the spine as well as the neurological consequence as sequelae to that biomechanical dysfunction.


Despite over a century of reported and literature-based clinical results, detractors both outside and inside the chiropractic profession argue to limit the scope of these spinal lesions because the literature has not yet caught up to the results. Additionally, the lack of contemporary literature has been reflected in “underperforming” chiropractic utilization in the United States for conditions that have been well-documented as responding successfully in outcome studies with chiropractic care.

Murphy, Justice, Paskowski, Perle and Schneider (2011) reported:


Spine-related disorders (SRDs) are among the most common, costly and disabling problems in Western society. For the purpose of this commentary, we define SRDs as the group of conditions that include back pain, neck pain, many types of headache, radiculopathy, and other symptoms directly related to the spine. Virtually 100% of the population is affected by this group of disorders at some time in life. Low back pain (LBP) in the adult population is estimated to have a point prevalence of 28%-37%, a 1-year prevalence of 76% and a lifetime prevalence of 85%. Up to 85% of these individuals seek care from some type of health professional. Two-thirds of adults will experience neck pain some time in their lives, with 22% having neck pain at any given point in time.


The burden of SRDs on individuals and society is huge. Direct costs in the United States (US) are US$102 billion annually and $14 billion in lost wages were estimated for the years 2002-4. (p. 1)


In 2017, based upon Alioth Education, dollars adjusted for inflation equates to $18,141, 895,182.64 in direct costs for spinal-related conditions that fall within the chiropractic treatment category and have proven to outperform other forms of care. When considering outcome assessments for efficacy of chiropractic in a population-based study, both Cifuentes, Willets and Wasiak  (2011) and Blanchette, Rivard, Dionne, Hogg-Johnson, and Steenstra (2017) offered evidence that the results are rooted in a “first healthcare provider” or “primary spine care” solution.



Cifuentes et al. (2011) compared different treatments of recurrent or chronic low back pain. They considered any condition recurrent or chronic if there was a recurrent disability episode after a 15-day absence and return to disability. Anyone with less than a 15-day absence of disability was excluded from the study. Please note that we kept disability outcomes for all reported treatment and did not limit this to physical therapy. However, the statistic for physical therapy was significant.


According to the Cifuentes, Willets and Wasiak (2011) study, chiropractic care during the disability episode resulted in:

  • 24% decrease in disability duration of first episode compared to physical therapy.
  • 250% decrease in disability duration of first episode compared to medical physician's care.
  • 32% decrease in average weekly cost of medical expenses during disability episode compared to physical therapy care.
  • 21% decrease in average weekly cost of medical expenses during disability episode compared to medical physician's care.

Cifuentes et al. (2011) started by stating, “Given that chiropractors are proponents of health maintenance care...patients with work-related LBP [low back pain] who are treated by chiropractors would have a lower risk of recurrent disability because that specific approach would be used” (p. 396). The authors concluded by stating, After controlling for demographic factors and multiple severity indicators, patients suffering nonspecific work-related LBP who received health services mostly or only from a chiropractor had a lower risk of recurrent disability than the risk of any other provider type” (Cifuentes et al., 2011, p. 404).


Blanchette, Rivard, Dionne, Hogg-Johnson and Steenstra (2017) reported:

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 a second episode of financial compensation. (p. 388)


Despite compelling evidence of chiropractic being the best option for primary spine care treatment of injuries related to disabilities and pain based upon outcomes, the reasons why chiropractic works have been elusive. Despite the lack of literature-based evidence, answers are still being sought because positive results are consistently being realized in clinical chiropractic practices. When Keating et al. (2005) wrote an opinion or debate article, they concluded, “Subluxation syndrome is a legitimate, potentially testable, theoretical construct for which there is little experimental evidence” (p. 13).


This statement is one of the most unifying statements that could serve to reduce pain and opiate utilization, prevent premature degeneration and increase bio-neuromechanical function for our society, while significantly increasing our utilization because chiropractic is part of the answer. However, the simple question is, “Why aren’t we doing this specific research because the pieces of what is considered subluxation have been verified in the literature for quite some time?”





VSC starts with spinal biomechanics and when considering a pathological model, we need to define the normal functioning of the spine.

Panjabi (2006) reported:

The spinal column, consisting of ligaments (spinal ligaments, discs annulus and facet capsules) and vertebrae, is one of the three subsystems of the spinal stabilizing system. The other two are the spinal muscles and neuromuscular control unit. The spinal column has two functions: structural and transducer. The structural function provides stiffness to the spine. The transducer function provides the information needed to precisely characterize the spinal posture, vertebral motions, spinal loads etc. to the neuromuscular control unit via innumerable mechanoreceptors present in the spinal column ligaments, facet capsules and the disc annulus. These mechanical transducers provide information to the neuromuscular control unit which helps to generate muscular spinal stability via the spinal muscle system and neuromuscular control unit. The criterion used by the neuromuscular unit is hypothesized to be the need for adequate and overall mechanical stability of the spine. If the structural function is compromised, due to injury or degeneration, then the muscular stability is increased to compensate the loss. (p. 669)

Panjabi (2003) also reported:

It has been conceptualized that the overall mechanical stability of the spinal column, especially in dynamic conditions and under heavy loads, is provided by the spinal column and the precisely coordinated surrounding muscles. As a result, the spinal stabilizing system of the spine was conceptualized by Panjabi to consist of three subsystems: spinal column providing intrinsic stability, spinal muscles, surrounding the spinal column, providing dynamic stability, and neural control unit evaluating and determining the requirements for stability and coordinating the muscle response. (p. 372)


In defining spinal clinical instability, Panjabi (1992) previously reported:

Clinical instability is defined as a significant decrease in the capacity of the stabilizing system of the spine to maintain the intervertebral neutral zones within the physiological limits so that there is no neurological dysfunction, no major deformity, and no incapacitating pain. (p. 394)



Anatomically, we are starting with the vertebrate and more specifically, the articular facets indicating that VSC is a “complex” and not a simple problem as the anatomical pathology occurs in opposing facets. When looking at normal vertebral structures, Farrell, Osmotherly, Cornwall, Sterling and Rivett (2017) focused their study on the cervical spine. 


Farrell et al. (2017) reported:

Cervical spine meniscoids, also referred to as synovial folds or intra-articular inclusions, are folds of synovium that extend between the articular surfaces of the joints of the cervical spine. These structures have been identified within cervical zygapophyseal, lateral atlantoaxial and atlanto-occipital joints, and have been hypothesised to be of clinical significance in neck pain through their mechanical impingement or displacement, as a result of fibrotic changes, or via injury as a result of trauma to the cervical spine. (p. 939)


Farrell et al. (2017) later stated:

An understanding of the basic structure of meniscoids is necessary to assess their potential role in cervical spine pathology. As described above, cervical spine meniscoids are folds of synovium that protrude into a joint from its margins. Meniscoids lie between the articular surfaces at the ventral and dorsal poles of their enclosing joint. Their basic structure includes a base, which attaches to the joint capsule, a middle region and an apex that protrudes approximately 1–5 mm into the joint cavity. In sagittal cross section, these structures are triangular in shape, and when viewed superiorly they often appear crescent-shaped or semi-circular. Cervical spine meniscoids are thought to function to improve the congruence of articular structures, and to ensure the lubrication of articular surfaces with synovial fluid. (p. 940)


Should these synovial folds or “plicas” become trapped or “pinched” as described by Evans (2002), it would be the beginning of a “negative neurological cascade.”



Evans (2002) reported:

Intra-articular formations have been identified throughout the vertebral column. Giles and Taylor demonstrated by light and transmission electron microscopy the presence of nerve fibers (0.6 to 1 mm in diameter) coursing through synovial folds, remote from blood vessels, that were most likely nociceptive. They concluded, “Should the synovial folds become pinched between the articulating facet surfaces of the zygapophyseal joint, the small nerves demonstrated in this study may have clinical importance as a source of low back pain.” (p. 252)




Figure 1: Images of meniscoid entrapment on flexion, on attempted extension, involving flexion and gapping and realigned.


Evans (2002) explained the images above as follows:

Meniscoid entrapment. 1) On flexion, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with It. 2) On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying "lesion" under the capsule. Pain occurs as a result of capsular tension, and extension is inhibited. 3) Manipulation of the joint involving flexion and gapping, reduces the impaction and opens the joint to encourage re-entry of the meniscoid into the joint space (4) [Realignment of the joint.] (p. 253)


Evans (2002) continued:

Bogduk and Jull reviewed the likelihood of intra-articular entrapments within zygapophyseal joints as potential sources of pain…Fibro-adipose meniscoids have also been identified as structures capable of creating a painful situation. Bogduk and Jull reviewed the possible role of fibro-adipose meniscoids causing pain purely by creating a tractioning effect on the zygapophyseal joint capsule, again after intra-articular pinching of tissue(p. 252)


Evans (2002) also noted:

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. 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…



An HVLAT manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment CSA], involving gapping of the zygapophyseal joint, reduces the impaction and opens the joint, so encouraging the meniscoid to return to its normal anatomic position in the joint cavity. This ceases the distension of the joint capsule, thus reducing pain. (p. 252-253)


When considering VSC in its entirety, we must consider the etiology as these forces can lead to complex patho-biomechanical components of the spine and supporting tissues. As a result, a neurological cascade can ensue that would further define VSC beyond the inter-articulation entrapments. Panjabi (2006) reported:

Abnormal mechanics of the spinal column has been hypothesized to lead to back pain via nociceptive sensors. The path from abnormal mechanics to nociceptive sensation may go via inflammation, biochemical and nutritional changes, immunological factors, and changes in the structure and material of the endplates and discs, and neural structures, such as nerve ingrowth into diseased intervertebral disc. The abnormal mechanics of the spine may be due to degenerative changes of the spinal column and/or injury of the ligaments. Most likely, the initiating event is some kind of trauma involving the spine. It may be a single trauma due to an accident or microtrauma caused by repetitive motion over a long time. It is also possible that spinal muscles will fire in an uncoordinated way in response to sudden fear of injury, such as when one misjudges the depth of a step. All these events may cause spinal ligament injury. (p.668-669).


Panjabi (2006) goes on to explain what happens when the spinal column is affected by trauma:

The structural function provides stiffness to the spine. The transducer function provides the information needed to precisely characterize the spinal posture, vertebral motions, spinal loads etc. to the neuromuscular control unit via innumerable mechanoreceptors present in the spinal column ligaments, facet capsules and the disc annulus. These mechanical transducers provide information to the neuromuscular control unit which helps to generate muscular spinal stability via the spinal muscle system and neuromuscular control unit. The criterion used by the neuromuscular unit is hypothesized to be the need for adequate and overall mechanical stability of the spine. If the structural function is compromised, due to injury or degeneration, then the muscular stability is increased to compensate the loss. What happens if the transducer function of the ligaments of the spinal column is compromised? This has not been explored. There is evidence from animal studies that the stimulation of the ligaments of the spine (disc and facets, and ligaments) results in spinal muscle firing. (p. 669).


Panjabi (2006) described the mechanism that, coupled with the inter-articulation nociceptor “firing,” further defines the “negative neurological cascade”:



The hypothesis consists of the following sequential steps:

  1. Single trauma or cumulative microtrauma causes subfailure injury of the spinal ligaments and injury to the mechanoreceptors embedded in the ligaments.
  2. When the injured spine performs a task or it is challenged by an external load, the transducer signals generated by the mechanoreceptors are corrupted.
  3. Neuromuscular control unit has difficulty in interpreting the corrupted transducer signals because there is spatial and temporal mismatch between the normally expected and the corrupted signals received.
  4. The muscle response pattern generated by the neuromuscular control unit is corrupted, affecting the spatial and temporal coordination and activation of each spinal muscle. 
  5. The corrupted muscle response pattern leads to corrupted feedback to the control unit via tendon organs of muscles and injured mechanoreceptors, further corrupting the muscle response pattern. 
  6. The corrupted muscle response pattern produces high stresses and strains in spinal components leading to further subfailure injury of the spinal ligaments, mechanoreceptors and muscles, and overload of facet joints. 
  7. The abnormal stresses and strains produce inflammation of spinal tissues, which have abundant supply of nociceptive sensors and neural structures.
  8. Consequently, over time, chronic back pain may develop. The subfailure injury of the spinal ligament is defined as an injury caused by stretching of the tissue beyond its physiological limit, but less than its failure point. (p. 669-670)


One hallmark of determining vertebral subluxation complex for the chiropractic profession has been ranges of motion of individual motor units. Both hypo- and hypermobility have been clinically associated with muscle spasticity and have offered a piece of clinical history in the practice setting. NOTE: Ranges of motion, like any other findings, are no more than pieces of evidence, all of which must clinically correlate.


Radziminska, Weber-Rajek, Srączyńska and Zukow (2017) reported:

The definition of the neutral zone explains that it as a small range of motion near the zero position of the joint, where no proprioreceptors are stimulated around the joint and osteoligamentous resistance is minimal (lack of centripetal response and, consequently, lack of central muscle stimulation).


Increasing the range of motion of the neutral zone is detrimental to the joint - it can lead to its damage. Delayed proprioceptive information about the current joint position that reaches the central system will give a muscle tone response, but it may turn out to be incompatible with external force acting on the joint. The reduced range of motion of the neutral zone is also unfavorable. If the stimulation of proprioreceptors is too early it will result in an increased muscle tension around the joint. The neutral zone is disturbed by traumas, degenerative processes, and muscle stabilization weakness. (p. 72)


With VSC, the joint that has been misplaced creates abnormal biomechanics and abnormal pressure to the joint. This is called Wolff’s Law, formulated and accepted since the 1800’s, and is explained by Kohata, Itoha, Horiuchia, Yoshiokab and Yamashita (2017):

When mechanical stress is impressed upon bone, an electrical potential is induced; the area of bone under compression develops negative potential, whereas that under tension develops positive potential.   This phenomenon is generated by collagen piezoelectricity, and the electrical potential generated in bone by collagen displacement has been well documented. (p. 65)





VSC is based upon both the macro- and microtrauma induced motor unit pathology, creating interarticular meniscoid nociceptor entrapment that triggers nociceptors and affects the lateral horn for a local reflex. It then innervates the thalamus through the spinothalamic tracts and periaqueductal grey matter which is then further distributed to various cortical regions to process in the body’s attempt to compensate biomechanically. This, coupled with aberrant motor unit ranges of motion (hypo or hyper), subfailure injuries to the ligaments and the corrupted mechanoreceptors and nociceptor messages that innervate the lateral horn cause a “negative neurological cascade” both reflexively at the cord and the brain. This cascade can cause pain and inflammation and will cause premature degeneration if left uncorrected based upon Wolff’s Law because of improper motor unit biomechanical failure. Should the correction be made after remodelling of the vertebrate, then care changes from corrective to management as the spine can never be perfectly biomechanically balanced as the segments (building blocks for homeostasis) have been permanently remodelled.



The research for VSC exists in its components. However, there needs to be a concise research program that combines all the pieces to further conclude the evidence that exists. Furthermore, we need more conclusive answers as to why chiropractic patients get well, answers that goes beyond pain or aberrant curves.




1. Murphy, D. R., Justice, B. D., Paskowski, I. C., Perle, S. M., & Schneider, M. J. (2011). The establishment of a primary spine care practitioner and its benefits to health care reform in the United States. Chiropractic & manual therapies19(1), 17.

2. FinanceRef Inflation Calendar, Alioth Finance. (2017). $14,000,000,000 in 2004 → 2017 | Inflation Calculator. Retrieved from

3. Cifuentes, M., Willets, J., & Wasiak, R. (2011). Health maintenance care in work-related low back pain and its association with disability recurrence. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine53(4), 396-404.

4. Blanchette, M. A., Rivard, M., Dionne, C. E., Hogg-Johnson, S., & Steenstra, I. (2017). Association between the type of first healthcare provider and the duration of financial compensation for occupational back pain. Journal of occupational rehabilitation27(3), 382-392.

5. Keating, J. C., Charlton, K. H., Grod, J. P., Perle, S. M., Sikorski, D., & Winterstein, J. F. (2005). Subluxation: Dogma or science? Chiropractic & Osteopathy13(1), 17.

6. Panjabi, M. M. (2006). A hypothesis of chronic back pain: Ligament subfailure injuries lead to muscle control dysfunction. European Spine Journal15(5), 668-676.

7. Panjabi, M. M. (1992). The stabilizing system of the spine. Part II. Neutral zone and instability hypothesis. Journal of Spinal Disorders5, 390-397

8. Panjabi, M. M. (2003). Clinical spinal instability and low back pain. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology13(4), 371-379.

9. Farrell, S. F., Osmotherly, P. G., Cornwall, J., Sterling, M., & Rivett, D. A. (2017). Cervical spine meniscoids: an update on their morphological characteristics and potential clinical significance. European Spine Journal, (26) 939-947

10. Evans, D. W. (2002). Mechanisms and effects of spinal high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust manipulation: Previous theories. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 25(4), 251-262.

11. Radziminska, A., Weber-Rajek, M., Strączyńska, A., & Zukow, W. (2017). The stabilizing system of the spine. Journal of Education, Health and Sport7(11), 67-76.

12. Kohata, K., Itoh, S., Horiuchi, N., Yoshioka, T., & Yamashita, K. (2017). Influences of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis on the electrical properties of human bones as in vivo electrets produced due to Wolff's law. Bio-Medical Materials and Engineering, 28(1), 65-74.

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Published in Neck Problems

Efficacy and Adverse Effects of Chiropractic Treatment for Migraines


By Mark Studin

William J. Owens

A report on the scientific literature

When considering care for migraines, there are a myriad of considerations; efficacy of treatment, costs to sufferers and insurers and the socioeconomic impact to individuals, business and families of those who suffer. When considering there are co-morbidities that must be considered in the quest for a “best-outcome,” avoiding any potential side effects, both with pharmacological and non-pharmacological care paths are critical. Chaibi, Benth, Tuchin and Bjorn (2017) reported “Manual-therapy [chiropractic spinal adjustments] is a non-pharmacological prophylactic treatment option that appears to have a similar effect as the drug topiramate on migraine frequency, migraine duration, migraine intensity and medicine consumption.” (pg. 66) Although previous reports indicate that chiropractic was upwards of 57% more effective (see ensuing comments), for this report, we are going to focus on the side effects of treatment, as efficacy has already been established.

Studin and Owens (2011) reported, “Nelson, Suter, Casha, du Plessis and Hurlbert (1998) reported on randomized clinical trials that took place over an 8-week course. The results showed there was minor statistical differences in outcomes for improvement during the trial period for chiropractic care and for amatriptyline and over-the-counter medications for treating migraine headaches. It was also reported that there was no statistical benefit in combining therapies. However, the major factor is that in the post-treatment follow-up period, chiropractic was 57% more effective in the reduction of headaches than drug therapy. In addition, it was reported that, with the drug group, "...58% experienced medication side effects important enough to report them. In the amatriptyline group, 10% of the subjects had to withdraw from the study because of intolerable side effects. Side effects in the SMT (Spinal Manipulative Therapy) group were much more benign, infrequent, mild and transitory. None required withdrawal from the study (Nelson et al., 1998, p. 511).

Using the 57% increased effectiveness that chiropractic has over drug therapy (leaving out the overlap that chiropractic could help without drugs) and the $24,000,000,000 ($24 billion) Americans pay for headaches and migraines, the savings would result in $13,680,000,000. back in the insurers, the public's and the government's pockets. In addition, if chiropractic reduced the necessity for emergency room visits by 57%, then the ED doctors could focus on what their primary purpose is, to save lives in urgent scenarios.”

Retrieved from:


Studin and Owens (2011) also reported, “Bryans, et. al. (2011) confirmed Nelson's findings and reported that spinal manipulation (adjusting) is recommended for patients with episodic or chronic migraines with or without aura and patients with cervicogenic headaches. This follow-up study is not a comparison or comment on the use of drugs. It simply demonstrates that chiropractic is a viable solution for many and can save the government and private industry billions in expenditures both in health care coverage, loss of productivity and avoidance of absenteeism in industry creating a new level of cost as sequella to headaches.” Retrieved from:


Chaibi, Benth, Tuchin and Bjorn (2017) reported,The results of the current study and previous CSMT (chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy) studies suggest that AEs are usually mild and transient, and severe and serious AEs (adverse effects) are rare (Tuchin, 2012; Cassidy et al., 2008, 2016). These findings are in accordance with the World Health Organization guidelines on basic training and safety in CSMT, which has considered it to be an efficient and safe treatment modality (WHO, 2005). AEs in migraine prophylactic pharmacological RCTs (random control trials) are common (Jackson et al., 2015). The risk for AEs during manual-therapy appears also, to be substantially lower than the risk accepted in any medical context for both acute and prophylactic migraine medication (Jackson et al., 2015; Ferrari et al., 2001). Non-pharmacological management also has the advantage of no pharmacological interactions/AEs because such therapies are usually mild and have a transient characteristic, whereas pharmacological AEs tend to be continuous.” (pg. 70)

Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) reported on the safety in general for chiropractic patients and based their study on 6,669,603 subjects and after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study, the total patient number accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified”(Whedon et al., 2015, p. 5). This study supersedes all the rhetoric about chiropractic and stroke and renders an outcome assessment to help guide the triage pattern of mechanical spine patients.

When considering the outcomes for chiropractic care vs. drug therapy and the safety for migraine sufferers and all other types of chiropractic patients in a large population study, chiropractic should be considered the first option for both referrals from medical primary care providers and the first treatment option for the public. This validates the common-sense approach to healthcare of “drugless first, drugs second and surgery last.” Too often, society for issues that are not germane to this argument, rely on dogma for healthcare solutions often a large risk to themselves and the results affect the entire socio-economics of that person’s life.


  1. Chaibi, A., Benth, J. Š., Tuchin, P. J., & Russell, M. B. (2017). Adverse events in a chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy single-blinded, placebo, randomized controlled trial for migraineurs. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice29, 66-71.
  2. Studin M., Owens W., (2010) Headaches and Migraines: Chiropractic Saves Federal and Private Insurers $13,680,000,000 and Resolves Many Issues Facing Emergency Rooms Today
  3. Nelson, C. F., Bronfort, G., Evans, R., Boline, P., Goldsmith, C., & Anderson, A. V. (1998). The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headache. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, 21(8), 511-519.
  4. Studin M., Owens W., (2010) Headaches & Migraines: Chiropractic vs. Medicine Effectiveness and Safety, Retrieved from:
  5. Bryans,
  6. Doheny, K. (2006). Recognizing the financial pain of migraines. Workforce Management, 85
  1. Whedon, J. M., Mackenzie, T. A., Phillips, R. B., & Lurie, J. D. (2015). Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69 years. Spine, 40(4), 264-270.

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Published in Neck Problems

Chiropractic Improves Neck Pain in a Military Veteran Population & Lowers the Need for Opiates


By Mark Studin

William Owens


A Report on the Scientific Literature


According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, neck pain accounts for 15% of commonly reported pain conditions. Sinnott, Dally, Trafton, Goulet and Wagner (2017) reported:


Neck and back pain problems are pervasive and associated with chronic pain, disability and high healthcare utilization. Among adults 60% to 80% will experience back pain and 20% to 70% will experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities during their lifetime. At any given time, 15% to 20% of adults will report having back pain and 10% to 20% will report neck pain symptoms. The vast majority of back and neck pain complaints are characterized in the literature as non-specific and self-limiting.” (pg. 1) 


The last sentence above describes why back and neck pain has contributed significantly to the opioid crisis and why our population, after decades still suffers from back and neck problems that have perpetuated. Mechanical lesions of the spine are not “self-limiting” and are not “non-specific.” They are well-defined and based upon Wolff’s Law (known since the 1800’s) don’t go away. Allopathy (Medicine) has purely focused on the pain and has vastly ignored the underlying cause of the neuro-bio-mechanical cause of the pain. 


Corcoran, Dunn, Green, Formolo and Beehler (2018) reported that musculoskeletal problems as the leading cause of morbidity for female veterans and females are more prone to experience neck pain than men. In addition, there has been a 400% increase in opioid overdoes deaths in females since 1999 compared to 265% for men and as a result, the Veterans Health Administration has utilized chiropractic as a non-pharmacological treatment option for musculoskeletal pain. Neck pain has also comprised of 24.3% of musculoskeletal complaints referred to chiropractors. 


Corcoran et. Al. also reported with chiropractic care, based upon a numeric rating scale (NRS) and the Neck Bournemouth Questionnaire (NBQ) scores, the NRS improved by 45% and the NBQ improved by 38%, with approximately 65% exceeding the minimum clinically important difference of 30%. A previous study of male veterans revealed a 42.9% for NSC and a 33.1 improvement for NBQ; statistics similar to female veterans. 


Although this is a very positive outcome that has helped many veterans, the percentages do not reflect what the authors have found in their clinical practices. These authors of this article (Studin and Owens) reported that for decades, cervical pain has been eradicated in 90 and 95% of the cases treated in our practices. The question begs itself, why is the population of veterans showing statistics less than half? 


Corcoran, et. Al. (2018) reported how the chiropractic treatment was delivered in their study:


The type of manual therapy varied among patients and among visits, but typically included spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), spinal mobilization, flexion – distraction therapy, and or myofascial release. SMT was operatively defined as a manipulative procedure involving the application of a high - velocity, low – ample to thrust the cervical spine. Spinal mobilization was defined as a form of manually assisted passive motion involving repetitive joint oscillations typically at the end of joint playing without application of a high- velocity, low – ample to thrust. Flexion – distraction therapy is a gentle form of a loaded spinal manipulation involving traction components along with manual pressure applied to the neck in a prone position. Myofascial release was defined as manual pressure applied to various muscles on the static state or all undergoing passive lengthening.


The above paragraph explains why the possible disparity in outcomes as Corcoran et. Al  do not reflect the ratios of who received high-velocity low-amplitude chiropractic spinal adjustment vs. the other therapies. When considering the other modalities; mobilization, flexion distraction therapy and myofascial release we must equate that to the outcomes physical therapist realize when treating spine as those are their primary reported treatment modalities. The following paragraphs indicate why spine care delivered by physical therapist is inferior to a chiropractic spinal adjustment, which equates to only a portion of the referenced chiropractic treatment modalities cited in the Corcoran Et. Al. The following citations conclude why these modalities provide inferior results compared to the high-velocity, low-amplitude chiropractic spinal adjustment that was exclusively used by the authors and rendered significantly higher positive outcome.

Studin and Owens (2017) reported the following:

Groeneweg et al. (2017) also stated:

This pragmatic RCT [randomized control trial] in 181 patients with non-specific neck pain (>2 weeks and <1 year) found no statistically significant overall differences in primary and secondary outcomes between the MTU (manual Therapy University) group and PT group. The results at 7 weeks and 1 year showed no statistically and clinically significant differences. The assumption was that MTU was more effective based on the theoretical principles of mobilization of the chain of skeletal and movement-related joint functions of the spine, pelvis and extremities, and preferred movement pattern in the execution of a task or action by an individual, but that was not confirmed compared with standard care (PT). (pg. 8)

Mafi, McCarthy and Davis (2013) reported on medical and physical therapy back pain treatment from 1999 through 2010 representing 440,000,000 visits and revealed an increase of opiates from 19% to 29% for low back pain with the continued referral to physical therapy remaining constant. In addition, the costs for managing low back pain patients (not correcting anything, just managing it) has reached $106,000,000,000 ($86,000,000,000 in health care costs and $20,000,000,000 in lost productivity).

Cifuentes et al. (2011) started by stating:

Given that chiropractors are proponents of health maintenance care...patients with work-related LBP [low back pain] who are treated by chiropractors would have a lower risk of recurrent disability because that specific approach would be used. (p. 396). The authors concluded by stating: “After controlling for demographic factors and multiple severity indicators, patients suffering nonspecific work-related LBP who received health services mostly or only from a chiropractor had a lower risk of recurrent disability than the risk of any other provider type” (Cifuentes et al., 2011, p. 404).

Mafi, McCarthy and Davis (2013) stated:

Moreover, spending for these conditions has increased more rapidly than overall health expenditures from 1997 to 2005...In this context, we used nationally representative data on outpatient visits to physicians to evaluate trends in use of diagnostic imaging, physical therapy, referrals to other physicians, and use of medications during the 12-year period from January 1, 1999, through December 26, 2010. We hypothesized that with the additional guidelines released during this period, use of recommended treatments would increase and use of non-recommended treatments would decrease. (p. 1574)


The above paragraph has accurately described the problem with allopathic “politics” and “care-paths who have continued to report medical “dogma” and have ignored the scientific literature results of chiropractic vs. physical therapy.

Mafi, McCarthy and Davis (2013) concluded:

Despite self-reported overwhelming evidence where there were 440,000,000 visits and $106,000,000,000 in failed expenditures, they hypothesized that increased utilization for recommended treatment would increase. The recommended treatment, as outlined in the opening two comments of this article, doesn’t work and physical therapy is a constant verifying a “perpetually failed pathway” for mechanical spine pain. (p. 1574)


Despite the disparity in statistics, the literature is clear chiropractic renders successful out comes for both male and females, and the spine is not discriminatory for veterans versus non-veterans and offers a successful solution in lieu of the utilization of opiates for musculoskeletal spinal issues. In addition, the labels “non-specific” and “self – limiting” are inaccurate and have been placed by providers with no training in the biomechanics of spine care. Chiropractors has been trained in spinal biomechanics for over 100 years and currently there are advanced courses in spinal biomechanical engineering, of which many chiropractors have concluded. 


  1. AAPM facts and figures on pain, the American Academy of pain medicine (2018), retrieved from:
  2. Sinnott P., Dally S., Trafton J., Goulet J. and Wagner T. (2017) Trends in diagnosis of painful neck and back conditions, 2002 to 2011, Medicine, 96 (20), pgs. 1-6
  3. Corcoran K., Dunn A., Green B., Formolo L., and Beehler G. (2018) Changes in Female Veterans’ Neck Pain Following Chiropractic Care at a Hospital for Veterans, Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice 30, pgs. 91-95
  4. Studin M., Owens W., (2017) The Mechanism of the Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment/Manipulation: Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapy for Spine, Part 5 of 5, Retrieved from:



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Published in Neck Problems

Chiropractic and Prescriptive Rights

Should Chiropractors Be Allowed to Prescribe Drugs?




Citation: Studin M. (2018) Chiropractic and Prescriptive Rights; Should Chiropractors be Allowed to Prescribe Drugs? American Chiropractor, 40 (3) 16, 17, 18, 19


As the rhetoric and legislative agendas escalate nationally on chiropractic and pharmaceutical prescriptive rights, as a profession, we need to take pause and consider the long-term effects of our actions. The question is, “Are we responsibly evolving or are we creating a problem that could put chiropractic back decades in utilization?” Please understand that this argument is totally devoid of any philosophy or beliefs in chiropractic principles or results; it is purely focused on increasing the utilization and business of every chiropractic practice in the country for the betterment of our patients.


Based upon an informal, but lengthy poll of many in our profession, one of the core reasons for wanting to add prescriptive rights is to help increase utilization at the practice level. The majority believe that if we could prescribe even non-narcotics, then patients would stay in our offices vs. seeking medical care for pain relief and a pro forma prescription to physical therapy with a resultant decrease in utilization of our offices. Unfortunately, that has been the national trend for far too long.


The question begs, “Are prescriptive rights the solution for both the chiropractic profession and our society? Over the last decade, I have been focused on increasing the level of clinical excellence of the practicing chiropractor, which has nothing to do with technique, philosophy or documentation. The level of clinical excellence has been centered on patient management, including accurately diagnosing, prognosing and triaging patients. The reason, medicine focuses on patient diagnosis and management and chiropractic has historically focused on treatment, too often bypassing rendering a thorough and conclusive diagnosis prior to rendering care. Therefore, my areas of focus are MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanical engineering, accident engineering, spinal trauma pathology and diagnosing spinal issues beyond subluxation.



Why concern ourselves with the medical community? The answer, quite simply, is that medical utilization is over 95% nationally and chiropractic is well below 10% and has been eroding steadily over the last decade. IF chiropractic can “tap” into that 95% and have every medical doctor in the nation consider chiropractic as the first choice for mechanical spine issues (excluding fracture tumor or infection), then we will rapidly change the culture of our society and resolve our utilization challenges rapidly. This is called “primary spine care.”


Over the last 10 years, I have been teaching in both chiropractic and medical academia and have cooperatively created courses in chiropractic in the above genres. As a result, the doctors who have taken these courses are getting the exact same level of education as many of our medical counterparts. The results, we are now functioning at a “peer” level that has garnered respect NOT because we get people well without drugs. That respect is because we understand spine at an extremely high level, often more so than our medical counterparts and they find themselves consulting with us on many of their more challenging cases looking for solutions. In turn, they also have been referring us many of their mechanical spine cases to manage because many medical doctors realize they are poorly equipped with nothing but drugs that are often too often addictive or end up with surgery as the only other option.


The primary care medical providers, medical specialists and emergency rooms that we work with nationally have expressed their gratitude for helping these patients by redirecting their care to the properly credentialed chiropractor and preventing further opiate abuse and/or the side effects of non-narcotics as well. The way they thank us is in the form of a perpetual streams of referrals. A case in point was in Cedar Park, Texas, where one of our doctors, 8 years into practice, sat with an orthopedic surgeon and discussed MRI spine interpretation. After a 1-hour conversation, the surgeon said to the doctor, “I love chiropractic; I just couldn’t find a smart enough chiropractor to trust with my referrals until now. Your knowledge of spine and MRI is equal to mine and from here forward, you will get all of my non-surgical referrals!” That doctor left with 8 referrals instantly and 1 year later has had a steady stem of referrals   . I could share similar stories from Dayton, Ohio, Buffalo, New York, America Fork, Utah, Denver, Colorado, Fair Lawn, New Jersey and dozens of other locations across the United States. The formula is working; it is reproducible and is purely based upon clinical excellence beyond adjusting!



As a note, many get angry with our chiropractic colleges for not teaching us enough…Remember, our chiropractic colleges are charged with giving us the basics to get started and they do an outstanding job in that role. I applaud them and so should you in the form of donations to their research departments. In medicine, it is no different, they get a basic education and THEN go back to school to become specialized. What you do with YOUR career after graduation is on YOU.



We now have hospital emergency departments nationally reaching out to our doctors purely based upon their curricula vitae’s (CVs) because the doctors in our program are trained in what needs to be on their CVs with the resultant knowledge base behind those credentials. AND…for clarity (unlike my former beliefs), letters after your DC are not as important as the specific citations or credentials in your CV.




Having been involved politically at the national and state levels for quite some time, I can say with a great degree of certainty that very little healthcare legislation (chiropractic falls under this category) in this country at either level gets passed without the blessing of the medical community. By attempting to add prescriptive rights to our scope, we will be threatening the utilization of medicine on a national scale and it will potentially close many of those doors that are currently opening at a rapid rate. The medical schools and research departments that have opened their doors to chiropractic (us) have done so primarily as a possible solution to the opiate epidemic in our country and we cannot be “Pollyannaish” and say we only want to prescribe non-narcotics. It has been clearly documented that this is a well-established “gateway” to addictive narcotics as when non-narcotics fail to offer relief, those patients need something else. Chiropractic care is that “something else” for mechanical spine pain, which is in the top 10 diagnoses for both emergency rooms and primary care medical providers who often have no solution other than drugs or surgery. Medicine’s only other historical care path with regards to mechanical spine diagnosis and management is physical therapy, which renders significantly inferior outcomes for spine vs. chiropractic based upon recent literature (a topic for another article) and one where far too many patients have ended up in pain management (narcotics) as the final solution.



Currently, our profession is at a cross-road on the prescriptive rights issue and if taken, could turn out to be a “very slippery slope” that could further erode our utilization and lead to increased iatrogenic issues in our society. I empathize with those doctors clinging to hope for a “quick fix” for their individual practices. However, as outlined above, there are viable solutions for every practice in the nation with none involving “get rich quick” paradigms. As I also consult many medical providers at various levels and I can report that their prescription pads are not making them wealthy, should they practice ethically. Their utilization and income increases as they get better at what they do and in chiropractic, we are no different.



Although our paradigm for increased utilization is working through increasing our clinical excellence, we are just starting to see this happen on a larger scale and the only way to have that upward spiral go faster, is if more chiropractors realize that the only way up is though academia and a strategic plan behind your new level of clinical excellence. So please hurry because your local medical community is waiting for you with that 95% to refer.



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Published in Neck Problems

Chiropractic Reduces Opioid Use by 55% in Low Back Pain


By Mark Studin

William J. Owens


A report on the scientific literature  


In the United States, of the adults who were prescribed opioids, 59% reported back pain.1 According to Statistia, the percentage of adults in the United States in 2015 with low back pain was 29.1% (  and in 2017 that number was 49% for all back-pain sufferers reporting symptoms (


Peterson ET. AL. (2012) reported:


[The] Prevalence of low back pain is stated to be between 15% and 30%, the 1-year period prevalence between 15% and 45%, and a life-time prevalence of 50% to 80%” (pg. 525). 


While acute pain is a normal (author’s note: pain is never normal) short-lived unpleasant sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury with a reflexive desire to avoid additional injury, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists and fundamentally changes the patient’s interaction with their environment. In chronic pain it is well documented that aberrant signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. (

Baliki Et. AL. (2008) stated


Pain is considered chronic when it lasts longer than 6 months after the healing of the original injury. Chronic pain patients suffer from more than pain, they experience depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and decision-making abnormalities that also significantly diminish their quality of life (pg. 1398).



Chronic pain patients also have shown to have changes in brain function in sufferers with Alzheimer’ disease, depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder giving further insight into disease states. In addition, chronic pain has a cause and effect on the morphology of the spinal cord and the brain resulting in a process termed “linear shrinkage”, which has been suggested to cause ancillary negative neurological sequella.  


Apkarian Et. Al. (2004) reported that “Ten percent of adults suffer from severe chronic pain. Back problems constitute 25% of all disabling occupational injuries and are the fifth most common reason for visits to the clinic; in 85% of such conditions, no definitive diagnosis can be made.” (pg. 10410) 


Whedon, Toler, Goel and Kazal (2018) reported the following:


One in 5 patients with noncancer pain or pain related diagnosis is prescribed opioids in office-based setting… primary care clinicians account for 50% of opioid prescriptions (Pg. 1). 1 day of opioid exposure carries a 6% chance of being on opioids 1year later, increasing to 13.5% by 8 days and 29.9% by 31 days. Among drug overdoses in the United States in 2014, 28,647, 61% involved an opioid. Opioids were involved in 75% of pharmaceutical deaths in 2010 and in 2015 over 22,000 deaths involved in prescription opioids were recorded-an increase of 19,000 deaths over the previous year (pg. 2).



Perhaps a portion of this phenomena is related to the training of medical primary care providers regarding musculoskeletal conditions. Studin and Owens reported (2016):


Day Et. Al. (2007) reported that only 26% of fourth year Harvard medical students had a cognitive mastery of physical medicine (pg. 452). Schmale (2005) reported “Incoming interns at the University of Pennsylvania took an exam of musculoskeletal aptitude and competence, which was validated by a survey of more than 100 orthopaedic program chairpersons across the country. Eighty-two percent of students tested failed to show basic competency. Perhaps the poor knowledge base resulted from inadequate and disproportionately low numbers of hours devoted to musculoskeletal medicine education during the undergraduate medical school years. Less than 1⁄2 of 122 US medical schools require a preclinical course in musculoskeletal medicine, less than 1⁄4 require a clinical course, and nearly 1⁄2 have no required preclinical or clinical course. In Canadian medical schools, just more than 2% of curricular time is spent on musculoskeletal medicine, despite the fact that approximately 20% of primary care practice is devoted to the care of patients with musculoskeletal problems. Various authors have described shortcomings in medical student training in fracture care, arthritis and rheumatology, and basic physical examination of the musculoskeletal system (pg. 251).  


With continued evidence of lack of musculoskeletal medicine and a subsequent deficiency of training in spine care, particularly of biomechanical orientation, the question becomes which profession has the educational basis, training and clinical competence to manage these cases?  Let’s take a closer look at chiropractic education as a comparison. Fundamental to the training of Doctor of Chiropractic according to the American Chiropractic Association is 4,820 hours (compared to 3,398 for physical therapy and 4,670 to medicine) and receive a thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology. As a result, all accredited Doctor of Chiropractic degree programs focus a significant amount of time in their curricula on these basic science courses. So important to practice are these courses that the Council on Chiropractic Education, the federally recognized accrediting agency for chiropractic education requires a curriculum which enables students to be “proficient in neuromusculoskeletal evaluation, treatment and management.” In addition to multiple courses in anatomy and physiology, the typical curriculum in chiropractic education includes physical diagnosis, spinal analysis, biomechanics, orthopedics and neurology. As a result, students are afforded the opportunity to practice utilizing this basic science information for many hours prior to beginning clinical services in their internship.


Whedon, Toler, Goel and Kazal (2018) continued:


Recently published clinical guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommended nonpharmacological treatment is the first – line approach to treating back pain, with consideration of opioids only is the last treatment option or if other options present substantial harm to the patient. Recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that for treatment of acute low back pain, spinal manipulation provides a clinical benefit equivalent to that of an NSAID’s, with no evidence of serious harm. Spinal manipulation is also shown to be an effective treatment option for chronic low back pain (pg. 2).


A retrospective claims study of 165,569 adults found that utilization of chiropractic services delivered by Doctor of Chiropractic was associated with reduced use of opioids. More recently, it was reported that the supply chiropractors as well as spending on spinal manipulative therapy is inversely correlated with opioid prescriptions in younger Medicare beneficiaries. This finding suggests that increased availability and utilization of services delivered by Doctor of Chiropractic could lead to reductions in opioid prescriptions. It has been reported that services delivered by Doctor of Chiropractic may improve health behaviors and reduced use of prescription drugs… Pain management services provided by Doctor of Chiropractic may allow patients use lower less frequent doses of opioids, leading to lower costs and reduce risk of adverse effects loops getting together (pg. 2).


Although chiropractic has been clinically reporting for over 100 years positive outcomes for a vast array of conditions inclusive of low back pain the American Medical Association (AMA) has been a significant opponent historically. Although the AMA’s position has been well chronicled through lawsuits such as Wilk v. American Medical Association, 895 F.2d 352 (7th Cir. 1990)

(, in 2017 it appears they have reversed their position. In the August 2017 Journal of the American Medical Association’s “Clinical Guideline Synopsis for Treatment of Low Back Pain” under the heading MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS, spinal manipulation is recommended as a first – line therapy, with a strong recommendation. As the AMA did not list Chiropractic specifically and based upon clinical guidelines of other highly regarded medical institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic, physical therapy is probably high on their list as first-line of referral for spinal manipulation (This is a  topic for another article and nomenclature utilized by chiropractic). When considering the treatment of mechanical spine issues comparatively between chiropractic and physical therapy the outcomes are overwhelmingly in chiropractic’s favor as reported by Studin and Owens (2017)


Mafi, McCarthy and Davis (2013) reported on medical and physical therapy back pain treatment from 1999 through 2010 representing 440,000,000 visits and revealed an increase of opiates from 19% to 29% for low back pain with the continued referral to physical therapy remaining constant. In addition, the costs for managing low back pain patients (not correcting anything, just managing it) has reached $106,000,000,000 ($86,000,000,000 in health care costs and $20,000,000,000 in lost productivity). 


Mafi, McCarthy and Davis (2013) stated:

Moreover, spending for these conditions has increased more rapidly than overall health expenditures from 1997 to 2005...In this context, we used nationally representative data on outpatient visits to physicians to evaluate trends in use of diagnostic imaging, physical therapy, referrals to other physicians, and use of medications during the 12-year period from January 1, 1999, through December 26, 2010. We hypothesized that with the additional guidelines released during this period, use of recommended treatments would increase and use of non-recommended treatments would decrease. (p. 1574)


The above paragraph has accurately described the problem with allopathic “politics” and “care-paths.” Despite self-reported overwhelming evidence of chiropractic vs. physical therapy outcomes for spine, where there were 440,000,000 visits and $106,000,000,000 in failed expenditures, they hypothesized that increased utilization for recommended treatment would increase. The recommended treatment, as outlined in the opening two comments of this article, doesn’t work and physical therapy is a constant verifying a “perpetually failed pathway” for mechanical spine pain.


Whedon, Toler, Goel and Kazal (2018) reported the concluded:

In 2013, average annual charges per person for filling opioid prescriptions were 74% lower among recipients compared with non-recipients (author’s note: recipients are referring to those patients receiving chiropractic care). For clinical services provided at office visits for low back pain, average annual charges per person in 2013 were 78% lower among recipients compared with non-recipients. The authors have similar between – Cohort differences in charges in 2014: annual charges per person were 70% lower with opioid prescriptions and 71% lower for clinical services among recipients compared with nonrecipients. The Adjusted likelihood find prescription for the opiate analgesic in 2014 was 55% lower among recipients compared with nonrecipients.


…the Adjusted likelihood of filling a prescription opioid analgesic was 55% lower for recipients of services provided by Doctor of Chiropractic compared with non-recipients (pg. 4)


The above reports evidenced based outcomes verifying chiropractic must be considered as the first-line of referrals, or Primary Spine Care Providers for mechanical spine diagnosis (no fracture, tumor or infection). The evidence also reveals that chiropractic outcomes exceed those of physical therapy and medicine for mechanical spine diagnosis. Unfortunately, it has taken 10,000’s of opioid related deaths to bring chiropractic to the forefront and start to eradicate the medical dogma against chiropractic and consider chiropractic as the 1st referral option for spine.




  1. Hudson, Teresa J., Edlund, Mark J., Steffick, Diane E., Tripathi, Shanti P., Sullivan, Mark D. (2008) Epidemiology of Regular Prescribed Opioid Use: Results from a National, Population-Based Survey Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 2008, Vol.36(3), pp.280-288
  2. Percentage of adults in the U.S. with low back pain from 1997 to 2015 (2018) retrieved from:
  3. Percentage of adults in the U.S. who were prone to select symptoms as of 2017 (2018), Retrieved from:
  4. Whedon J., Toler A., Goehl J., Kazal L. (2018), Association Between Utilization of Chiropractic Services for Treatment of Low Back Pain and Use of Opioids, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2018 Feb 22. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0131. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Treatment of Low Back Pain, Wenger H., Cifu A., (2017) Treatment of Low Back Pain, Journal of the American Medical Association, 318 (8) pages 743-744
  6. Studin M., Owens. W., (2016), Chiropractic vs. Medicine: Who is Most Cost Effective and Renders Better Outcomes for Spine? Retrieved from:
  7. Whedon J., Toler A., Goehl J., Kazal L. (2018), Association Between Utilization of Chiropractic Services for Treatment of Low Back Pain and Use of Opioids, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2018 Feb 22. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0131. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Treatment of Low Back Pain, Wenger H., Cifu A., (2017) Treatment of Low Back Pain, Journal of the American Medical Association, 318 (8) pages 743-744
  9. Studin M., Owens. W., (2016), Chiropractic vs. Medicine: Who is Most Cost Effective and Renders Better Outcomes for Spine? Retrieved from:
  10. Wilk vs. American Medical Association, Retrieved from:
  11. Studin M., Owens. W., (2017), The Mechanism of the Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment /Manipulation: Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapy for Spine, Part 5 of a 5 Part series (2017) Retrieved from:


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Published in Neck Problems

Case Report: Establishing the Efficacy for Trauma Trained Chiropractors as Primary Spine Care Physicians

Donald A. Capoferri, D.C., DAAMLP

Abstract: The objective of this case report is to explore the use of chiropractic and chiropractors as a primary spine care specialty and the efficacy of early referral to a properly trained and credentialed chiropractor. Diagnostic studies included physical examination, radiographic examinations, cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine MRI studies and brain MRI study.  Treatments included non-surgical axial decompression and low-level laser treatments. Once a clinical examination and diagnosis was formed, a favorable prognosis was expected. With appropriate chiropractic management, the outcome proved excellent in pain reduction and had minimal effect on the numbness and weakness of the patient’s left upper and lower extremities.

Key Words: Disc herniation, syringomyelia, multiple sclerosis, disc bulge, demyelination.

Introduction: On 8/23/2017, a 49-year-old female presented for examination and treatment of chronic left sided lumbar spine pain that began on 8/1/1983 after a slip and fall incident. The pain was described as sharp, burning, and deep with radiation into the back of the left leg with an 8 out of 10 on the VAS (visual analog scale) scale, worsening since its onset.

Other Presenting Concerns: The patient also presented with sub-acute chest pain with radiation into the left upper arm.  She described the pain as 8 out of 10 and has stayed the same since 7/1/2017 and is of unknown origin. The patient also reported numbness and tingling of the left lower extremity since 7/1/2017 of unknown origin.  The final reported complaint was numbness and tingling of the left lower arm since 7/1/2017 that seems to start in the left upper back and shoulder and travels to the left lower arm rated at 8/10 on the VAS scale.  The reported symptoms have made sleeping and staying asleep, bending over, using a computer, and concentrating very difficult.

Prior Treatments: Medical care including orthopedic specialist, neurology with prescription medications, chiropractic care, and physical therapy.

Past Medical History: The patient’s past history includes use of prescription and over the counter medications. Surgical history includes tonsils and adenoids in 2008, wisdom tooth extraction in 1990, partial hysterectomy in 2002 and C-section in 1998.  The family health history includes Alzheimer’s disease, anemia, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Clinical Findings: The patient presents as a 49-year-old female of average build, clean and neat and well groomed. The vitals are: Height: 61 inches, Weight: 168 lbs, Pulse: 74 bpm, BP: 168/117 mm/Hg in left arm. The patient’s appearance is visibly uncomfortable and restless.

Physical Findings:  Palpation of the paraspinal musculature revealed moderate to severe spasms on the left neck, upper thoracic, and lumbosacral regions.  Orthopedic testing produced pain and dizziness with foraminal compression. Upper thoracic pain with Soto Hall’s test and Sternal compression produced pain on the left anterior chest. Percussion test produced pain in the upper thoracic spine.

Neurologic Testing: Diminished right patella reflex and 3/5 weakness of the left deltoid muscle group and left hamstring muscle group with hypersensitivity to light touch along the C6, C8, T1, L3, L4 and L5 dermatomes were the only positive neurologic findings.  All other tests are within normal limits. Digital muscle testing was ordered following up on the initial manual findings of muscle weakness.  The results were profound left sided deficits in the upper and lower extremities; deltoids 35% weaker than right side, left biceps 68% weaker than right, left triceps 26% weaker than right, wrist extensors 47% weaker than right.  The left hamstring group was 25% weaker than right, left quadriceps 40% weaker than right, left anterior tibialis 44% weaker than right.

Radiographic Findings: I personally reviewed cervical spine and thoracic spine x-rays taken on 8/14/17 and found the following: A severe loss of the cervical lordosis, translation of C3 on C4, C4 on C5 in extension.  T3 is laterally flexed on T4 with body rotations to the left of T3, T4, and T5. A bifid spinous is noted of C6. Mild posterior osteophyte is noted on C3 and C4.  Lumbar x-rays taken on 8/23/2017 revealed pelvic unleveling with right inferiority, anteriority of L5 on S1, an inferior Schmoral’s node on L5 and mild demineralization, disc degeneration and joint degeneration of the lumbar spine.  Moderate to severe foraminal encroachment of L4/L5, L5/S1 is noted. 

MRI findings by radiologist:

Cervical spine:  MRI taken at 2.5 mm slice thickness, with gradient echo and STIR studies revealed C4-C5 right paracentral herniated disc measuring 2 x 3 mm not indenting the cord.  A small syrinx of the cord is noted at level of C6-C7 interspace and extending above and below for a total of 15mm in length and 2mm in width. (Fig. 1A) (3)

Thoracic Spine:  MRI taken at 3.0 mm slice thickness, angled to the disc with STIR and T2 axial views revealed a T4-T5 central protrusion measuring 2 x 4 mm in size in the midline.

Lumbar Spine:  MRI taken at 3.0 mm slice thickness, angled to the disc with STIR and T2 Axial views. L5/S1 demonstrates a central disc herniation with annular tear measuring 3x 6 mm indenting the epidural space and very mildly touching the thecal sac.

I personally reviewed the MRI studies and my impression is as follows:

Cervical spine also demonstrated a C3-C4 disc bulge compressing the thecal sac and deforming the normal shape of the cord by altered CSF pressure. (Fig. 1B) (1).  C5-C6 demonstrates a central protrusion with annular tear compressing the ventral cord in the midline by altered CSF pressure. 

In addition to the radiologist findings, the thoracic study demonstrated significant facet arthritis at the level of T10 that indents the thecal sac and compresses the left posterolateral aspect of the cord. (Fig. 2.) In addition to the radiologist’s findings, I reviewed the lumbar spine and reported an L4-L5 left asymmetric bulge with compression of the left aspect of the thecal sac. (1)

MRI Discussion: After review of the clinical examination findings, the patient’s subjective complaints and the X-ray and MRI imaging studies, the findings were reported to the patient.  I subsequently ordered a brain MRI since I did find an adequate explanation of the left sided sensation and motor deficits. The brain MRI demonstrates a right frontal/parietal subcortical white matter demyelinating lesion in T2/FLAIR images. (Fig 3).

 Fig. 1A: Shows a demyelination of the central cord assessed as a syrinx by radiologist

Fig. 1B:  C3-C4 disc bulge, thecal sac compression, deforming the cord shape and apparent CSF in the central canal of the cord.

Fig. 2:  T10 left facet arthritis indenting the thecal sac and compressing the left posterolateral cord.

Fig. 3:  T2/FLAIR shows left frontal / parietal area of demyelination

Diagnostic Impression: When arriving at a diagnosis all objective findings along with subjective complaints should be considered.  When I considered the profound left sided sensory and motor deficits, the clinical findings and the imaging findings I referred the patient to a neurologist for evaluation of late onset multiple sclerosis. (3) The patient consulted the lead Neurologist in the M.S. Department at Shepard Center in Atlanta who confirmed the diagnosis.

Therapeutic Focus and Assessment: At the report of findings it was explained to the patient that she did have spinal findings that were treatable and that did contribute to her pain.  It was further explained that the care provided is not expected to affect the symptoms that are caused by the M.S. condition.  An 8-week course of non-surgical axial decompression was completed, aimed at reduction of the C3-C4, C4-C5, C5-6, L4-L5 and L5-S1 disc displacements.  At discharge, the patient reported a 90% reduction of spine pain and improvements of the left sided upper and lower extremity weaknesses. She was discharged into the care of her neurologist at that time.

Discussion: Properly trained chiropractors are the perfect fit to be the primary spine care provider. Our education includes extensive training in identifying biomechanical and anatomical lesions of the spine in order to arrive at an accurate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan.  This includes proper triage to other healthcare providers. 

In this case the patient presented with a biomechanical issue, disc herniation and degeneration, with facet arthritis, but also with a significant non-spinal pathology that was identified properly and referred appropriately. 

Numerous other physicians and chiropractors evaluated this patient, all of whom treated the obvious without finding the underlying cause of her numbness and weakness, which may have delayed necessary care. A Doctor of Chiropractic, who is well trained and credentialed as a Primary Spine Care physician knows to look beyond the obvious, taking all findings and patient subjective complaints into consideration in order to obtain a proper diagnosis, prognosis, and appropriate plan of treatment for each patient.

  • All identifying information has been removed from this report
  • There is no conflicts of interest in producing this report


1. Fardon DF, Williams AL, Dohring EJ, Murtagh FR, Gabriel Rothman SL, Sze GK. Nomenclature 2.0 for Disc PathologySpine J. 2014 Nov 1;14 (11):2525-45.doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2014.04.022. Epub 2014 Apr 24. 

2. Schippling S. Neurodegener Dis Manag.  MRI for multiple sclerosis diagnosis and prognosis. 2017 Nov;7(6s):27-29.  doi: 10.2217/nmt-2017-0038

3. Pillich D, El Refaee E, Mueller JU, Safwat A, Schroeder HWS, Baldauf J.  Syringomyelia associated with cervical spondylotic myelopathy causing canal stenosis. A rare association.

Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2017 Nov - Dec; 51(6): 471-475. doi: 10.1016/j.pjnns.2017.08.002.Epub 2017 Aug 14.

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Published in Case Reports


Primary Spine Care

A mandatory “future trend” for chiropractic success that has already begun

By Mark Studin

William J. Owens

Primary Spine Care has been proven in the market place as chiropractic’s future and the instrument to increase our utilization. Primary Spine Care simply means that the chiropractor is the first referral option for mechanical spine issues short of fracture, tumor or infection. After 10 years of development and 4 years of market testing, this paradigm has been released nationally and has far exceeded our expectations based upon the dramatic increased utilization of chiropractic services nationwide from private practice to hospitals.   If you are committed to being “the best-of-the-best” through clinical excellence, you can still create a leadership position in your community for both you and your practice with not losing sight that this is happening, with you or without you, and if you are not out in front you will potentially be forever behind. 

Insurers are scrambling to “corner the market” using the lure of primary spine care.  In the end, this is just another plan to further limit your reimbursements; it is “managed care in sheep’s clothing”. Hospitals are also devising primary spine care schemes to dupe you into becoming one of their devoted “minions” into a 1-way referral pattern; with you referring into THIER system while avoiding referring into YOURS. Chiropractic academia is also struggling to catch the primary spine care trend, while their true mandate is to prepare our future doctors of chiropractic to pass national and state boards.  Our politicians and political organizations have realized they are also significantly behind this trend and are reaching “inward” in a hope for someone within the organization to try to take a leadership position. Although our political organizations are vocally touting their ability to grow chiropractic, we can see historically the opposite is true.  Our profession has thought leading with politics was the answer and that path would finally deliver chiropractic into the mainstream, however, based upon published evidence, that approach has proven to deliver relatively stagnant growth as reported by Adams et. Al (2017).  Adams states chiropractic utilization to be 8.4% of the population. It was also reported that 35.2% of the United States population takes over the counter drugs and 23.2% takes prescription medications for the same conditions that respond favorably to chiropractic care. The disparity in utilization of drugs vs. chiropractic care underscores that our global approach to the promotion of chiropractic care is failing, and it can no longer be “business as usual.”

One of the fastest growing trends in healthcare today, is defining who should be considered a “Primary Spine Care Practitioner.” There is a myriad of factors to consider and the timing, based upon a “Best Practice/Evidence Based  Models” (consisting of the scientific literature, patient feedback/expectations and the doctors experience) is perfect for chiropractic to take its place as the leading profession in this critically important niche.  As a society, we are failing to provide adequate spine care.  One of the issues that inevitably occurs when there is a trend catching everyone’s attention, is the rise of the “fly by night, get rich quick, self-proclaimed gurus” that cut corners behind the scenes, but gives you the perception that they are true leaders.  Our profession has a significant history of this occurring, particularly in the managed care arena and we are seeing it starting to happen within the contemporary Primary Spine Care Practitioner trend.  We wanted to provide insight on what is occurring from our unique position, which combines both chiropractic and medical academia and clinical practice.  We would like to outline the critical factors to consider so you can prepare to effectively participate and leverage this important trend in healthcare to your private practice.  The end result; increase utilization (you are busier).

The following should be considered a guide to your path to success in Primary Spine Care and WHO to participate WITH and WHO to AVOID.


One of the most important aspects of evaluating a Primary Spine Care training program, or even taking advice at the academic, political or consulting end is determining whether the program and its instructors are coming from a position of success.  Do they present with a proven track record or are they are simply capturing a trend and experimenting with you and your practice?  Consider the reality television show The Shark Tank, a show which has billionaire investors investigating companies that want them to invest in their products or services. The Sharks have a simple rule, which is an underlying theme of the show, what has the “wannabe” business PRODUCED in revenue or success PRIOR to a Shark considering investing their personal money? If the answer is little or none, then the Shark passes since speculation rarely leads to profit. Too many Primary Spine Care “guru’s” promote a pathway to success, but have not achieved any significant level of expertise or track record in filling offices in a profitable scenario. These are the groups that have so called “friends” on the inside and at first glance seems impressive, but as you dig deeper into their past successes they come up empty.  It is important to not enter a training program that needs YOU to grow, that is a recipe for failure, frustration and no return on your investment.  We suggest asking how many chiropractors are currently in the program and how may referrals they have to date in their system [most do not keep track for obvious reasons] and GET references.  Facts are facts and not rhetoric and no matter how “sexy” a program appears, it means nothing if it doesn’t work.  This is the difference between an experimental process and a real program achieving real results.  Don’t be the experiment.


Secondly, we want to caution you to make sure every Primary Spine Care program is putting chiropractic first.  We suggest asking if the program is chiropractic centric or does it concurrently invite physical therapists as Co-Primary Spine Care Providers?  It has long been discussed and demonstrated [CLICK HERE FOR VERIFICATION] that the scientific literature has concluded that chiropractic care for spine is superior to that of physical therapy at many levels including pain management and in the reduction of recurrent disability. 

Blanchette, Rivard, Dionne, Hogg-Johnson and Steenstra (2017) reported:

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 a second episode of financial compensation. These differences raise concerns regarding the useof physiotherapists as gatekeepers for the worker’s compensation system. (pg. 388)

Programs that include physical therapy are brining chiropractic down to a level that will not ensure your success as the outcomes are far less effective than a chiropractic spinal adjustment as evidenced in the paragraph above. Physical therapy has its place in spine care, but not first. It is our experience that a program who offers both chiropractic and physical therapy as primary spine care will do this to ensure the profit of the program and NOT YOU. We also firmly believe this creates a public healthcare risk by supporting poorer outcomes, which feed the current opiate epidemic by mismanaging mechanical spine patients. In the end, this will create a perception that chiropractic and physical therapy are equal.  Nothing could be farther from the truth and nothing could be more dangerous to the public and your long-term success.  Only consider a Primary Spine Care program that is chiropractic only.


This is one of the most negative aspects of the current Primary Spine Care trend and one that we see happening more and more each week. There are groups in our profession that are promoting the Primary Spine Care concept not to help chiropractic, but to “sell” chiropractic to insurance carriers or hospitals under the umbrella of third party administrators or managed care. This type of focus is NOT in the best interest of chiropractic and does not have your practice’s best interests in mind or the chiropractic profession (for verification, see all the current managed care models that allow 8 or 10 visits at a severely reduced fee, where most have chiropractors controlling your practice and paycheck).  Insurance carriers are not ignorant, they realize the benefits of using chiropractic care and coverage is expanding in these plans, however there are those in our profession that continue to insert themselves between hardworking chiropractors and the insurance carriers.  This is a veiled attempt to create a “network” of doctors that they can sell to the highest bidder.  These “middle men” even promise doctors in their group a steady stream of patients, but in the end, it is an empty promise or worse… you get a lot of patients at such a reduced rate that paying your bills is challenging.  Don’t let this happen to you and your practice. Enriching others at the expense of your practice and your family is not a recipe for success.  We suggest reviewing ALL the directors of ALL programs you are considering and if there is ANY indication that they had consulted with insurance carriers, worked for managed care companies or are significant players in the independent examination world…RUN.  Many are now getting astute and realizing that chiropractors have been taken advantage of for too long, so they leave these things off their CV or Resume.  We suggest searching GOOGLE and Social Media, many have digital trail and an employment track record that can be uncovered.  This is occurring faster and more obviously than previously thought…don’t be taken advantage of, consider WHY the program was created and to whom the money flows. 


One of the more “sexy” portions of working as a Primary Spine Care Provider is the hospital component.  Since doctors of chiropractic have historically worked outside of the mainstream health system, it continues to be relatively rare for DCs to be included in hospital groups.  Fortunately, hospitals are working with doctors of chiropractic more than ever before, however many of the chiropractors that are leading the way are simply being taken advantage of by the system.  Most chiropractors don’t know it is occurring, while hospitals are “selling” YOU on perceived success in breaking into their system.  In the end, it is just a house of cards and will do nothing to move you or your practice forward.  When working with the hospitals as a Primary Spine Care Provider, the point is that THEY REFER TO YOU as the first option for mechanical spine issues. If the hospital is excited to receive referrals FROM you instead of referring TO you…RUN.  Hospitals not referring to chiropractic as a first choice for spine is NOT a Primary Spine Care Program, it is an enrichment program for the hospital and the consultant that is promoting or selling the program.  Caveat Emptor!!! Do your homework first and do not fall into the trap of being put on a list, having access to doctors in the hospital and having an open line of communication with doctors you refer to… you already have that! A true Primary Spine Care Program ALREADY has established, or will give you the pathway for referrals INTO YOUR office.   Anything other than that is to suck you into the hospital system to get your referrals. Never lose sight that chiropractic is big business for many hospitals and they will do anything to get your business and not give an inch to allow you a piece of theirs. The tide is turning with many hospitals bringing chiropractic on staff, changing by-laws to create chiropractic inclusion into their system and realizing that the best business model is the chiropractor as the first referral option and keep everything else in-house.   Make sure you are creating or entering the right system, a REAL Primary Spine Care Program will teach you that and show you how it has been done in other areas of the country.


In the chiropractic world, there are two places that a program can evolve FROM and two places that it is governed BY.  The program can evolve FROM either an Academic or a Clinical perspective and it can be governed BY either Academics or Politics.  These are very important points to consider.  First, when a program is buried in Academics, although it may be perceived as having state of the art information, it is often built and run from predominantly a theoretical perspective.  This is a prime example of a “it looks good on paper” program, which has not had any real measure of clinical success in the marketplace.  Secondly, when a program is developed and run by clinicians there is often a narrow-sited approach that is missing what the literature provides and not understanding the trends in the industry.  Many times, the clinicians are lacking significant post-graduate training on MRI, Spinal Biomechanical Engineering and triage protocols which ultimately will make the program ineffective or focus on one aspect too heavily. This is at the expense and ultimately the success of your practice. Another alarming trend is when politics drives the process. It is our observation over the last 4 decades that politics typically drives patients and income to those who are in control of the political process and their “friends.” Typically, the rest of the profession, no matter how hard they try, work or get better, simply can’t participate as the system has been designed for so few. In addition, politics in our profession has been controlling too much and has crossed the lines too often in our academic process; they should support academia, not lead it . The “politics first” approach has lead us to an 8.4% utilization in the United States when failing spine care is epidemic nationally and with so many patients suffering, all chiropractic offices should be on a waiting list.

When we consider how a program is governed, the options are either academia or politics and as stated above, politics should support academia, not drive it and the success of a Primary Spine Care program is a perfect example. Politics cannot drive it, there must be a mix of significant post-doctoral (graduate level) formal training and a long history of success in this paradigm.

It can no longer be business as usual, your success and future depend on it.


The perfect solution is a blend of meaningful post-doctoral (graduate level) formal training and clinical practice with a track record of success. Politics as previously stated is there to support the process, not drive the process.  Historically the old way of doing things is not working based upon the 8.4% of our current utilization. Investigate the qualifications and experience of who you are listening to and who you choose to follow, and a blend of academia and successful clinical experiences is the perfect solution. This can be verified by demanding to inspect the Curriculum Vitae of all involved and then scour both Google and social media as previously suggested.     

After 10 years of researching the infrastructure of primary spine care and 4 years of market testing in figuring out HOW to make it work in every chiropractic office in the world, we have ALREADY gotten 711,434 (as of 1-26-2018) referrals INTO chiropractic practices in 47 states from lawyers, primary care medical providers, medical specialists, urgent care centers and emergency room. I also want to report, that this number is an approximate, where the actual number is significantly higher, but that is all we can safely verify. It is this number that would make the “Sharks” happy because it already works, and YOU are not the market research or the EXPERIMENT. It was done with your clinical excellence, a best practice model inclusive of the literature and a business plan that includes medical primary care providers, medical specialists, urgent care centers, hospital emergency rooms and lawyers.

Right now, you are still at the beginning of this “Wave” [or future trend] and you do not have to change how you treat your patients, how you adjust or whether you believe in subluxation or purely a pain model. All you HAVE to do is work within your lawful scope of practice as set forth by your state and get smarter with a business plan to educate your referral sources, so THEY RUN AFTER YOU. Truthfully, that is the easiest part.


  1. Adams, J., Peng, W., Cramer, H., Sundberg, T., Moore, C., Amorin-Woods, L., & Lauche, R. (2017). The Prevalence, Patterns, and Predictors of Chiropractic Use Among US Adults: Results From the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. Spine42(23), 1810-1816.
  2. Studin M., Owens W. (2016) The Mechanism of the Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment/Manipulation: Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapy for Spine, Retrieved from:
  3. Blanchette, M. A., Rivard, M., Dionne, C. E., Hogg-Johnson, S., & Steenstra, I. (2017). Association between the type of first healthcare provider and the duration of financial compensation for occupational back pain. Journal of occupational rehabilitation27(3), 382-392.

Dr. Mark Studin is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Chiropractic at the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic, an Adjunct Professor at Cleveland University-Kansas City College of Chiropractic, an Adjunct Professor of Clinical Sciences at Texas Chiropractic College and a Graduate Medical Clinical Presenter for the State of New York at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine for post-doctoral education, teaching MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanical engineering and triaging trauma cases. He is also the president of the Academy of Chiropractic teaching doctors of chiropractic how to interface with the medical and legal communities (, teaches MRI interpretation and triaging trauma cases to doctors of all disciplines nationally and studies trends in healthcare on a national scale ( He can be reached at or at 631-786-4253. 


Dr. Bill Owens is presently in private practice in Buffalo NY and generates the majority of his new patient referrals directly from the primary care medical community.  He is an Associate Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine, an Adjunct Professor at Cleveland University-Kansas City College of Chiropractic, an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic and an Adjunct Professor of Clinical Sciences at Texas Chiropractic College.  He also works directly with doctors of chiropractic to help them build relationships with medical providers in their community. He can be reached at or or 716-228-3847  


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