Chiropractic and Cervical Arterial Dissection:
Causal Relationship or Medical Dogma?
By Mark Studin
William J. Owens
A report on the scientific literature and commentary
There has been much controversy over the last 2 decades about the perceived causal relationship between a chiropractic cervical adjustment and dissecting arterial aneurysm on the internet, in the literature and in the beliefs of some in the medical community. Prior to examining the published facts, lets first clarify what an arterial dissection is.
According to Haneline and Rosner (2007)
Arterial dissection is an uncommon vascular wall condition that typically involves a tear at some point in the artery's lining and the formation of an intimal flap, which allows blood to penetrate into the muscular portion of the vessel wall. Blood flowing between the layers of the torn blood vessel may cause the layers to separate from each other, resulting in arterial narrowing or even complete obstruction of the lumen (Fig 1). Moreover, pulsatile pressure damages the muscular layer, resulting in a splitting or dissection of the intimal and medial layers that may extend along the artery variable distances, usually in the direction of blood flow.Another way for dissection to occur involves a primary intramural hemorrhage of the vasa vasorum, which builds pressure between the intimal and medial layers and may eventually rupture into the vessel's true lumen. Occasionally, a double lumen (also known as false lumen) is formed when the subintimal hemorrhage ruptures back into the arterial lumen distally. (pgs. 113-114)
In addition, Haneline and Rosner (2007) wrote a decade ago:
Of special interest to chiropractors is the role cervical spine manipulation [CSM] plays, if any, in the pathogenesis of CAD [Cervical Artery Dissection]. Indeed, patients do experience CAD on rare occasions after CSM, making knowledge about the cervical arteries, the predisposing factors, and the pathogenesis of the condition important for chiropractors. (pg. 110)
This comment, early in the potential relationship between cervical adjusting and cervical arterial dissection [CAD] warranted a warning to healthcare provider about CAD and cervical adjusting making it important to understand the cervical arteries. This is underscored by the authors themselves being chiropractors and memorizing this “caveat” to the profession.
In a September 2017 presentation by Candice Perkins MD, Neurology, Vascular Neurology (an attending stroke neurologist and both an Associate and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook Hospital and Medical Center from 2001 - 2016) in New York, she stated that there is zero evidence for direct causal relationship between stroke and a chiropractic cervical adjustment performed by a licensed chiropractor in the appropriate clinical presentation. Dr. Perkins went on to explain that there are numerators and denominators. The denominator are strokes and the presence of a patient with a stroke. The numerator is the associated incidence. In her vast experience with stroke, there are an unlimited number of numerators with chiropractic being one, however if one uses that same equation, there are hundreds of other equally potential factors with primary care medical visits being of equal incidence. In addition, with her understanding chiropractic as a patient and from the literature, there is scant evidence that a chiropractic adjustment can be the causative factor of cervical dissecting aneurysm.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Department of Neurosurgery came to the same conclusions. In a systematic and meta-analysis of chiropractic care and cervical arterial dissection, they concluded:
There is no convincing evidence to support a causal link between chiropractic manipulation and CAD. (pg. 1)
Church et. Al reviewed 253 published articles and scored them on a GRADE system with 4 variables, high, moderate, low and very low in reliability of the research available on CAD and chiropractic adjustments. They concluded:
Scrutiny of the quality of the body of data using the GRADE criteria revealed that it fell within the “very low” category. We found no evidence for a causal link between chiropractic care and CAD. This is a significant finding because belief in a causal link is not uncommon, and such a belief may have significant adverse effects such as numerous episodes of litigation. (pg. 6)
Perhaps the greatest threat to the reliability of any conclusions drawn from these data is that together they describe a correlation but not a causal relationship, and any unmeasured variable is a potential confounder. The most likely potential confounder in this case is neck pain. Patients with neck pain are more likely to have CAD (80% of patients with CAD report neck pain or headache), and they are more likely to visit a chiropractor than patients without neck pain. (pg. 7)
This is the same opinion of Dr. Perkins as reported above, where the presence of CAD does not have a causal relationship simply because the neck pain brought them to a chiropractor. The CAD would have happened with or without the chiropractic adjustment as is concluded by medical experts and the literature.
To further the argument, Cassidy, Boyle, Cote`, He, Hogg-Johnson, Silver and Bondy (2008) reported:
There were 818 VBA [Vertebral Basilar Artery] strokes hospitalized in a population of more than 100 million person-years. In those aged 45 years, cases were about three times more likely to see a chiropractor or a PCP before their stroke than controls. Results were similar in the case control and case crossover analyses. There was no increased association between chiropractic visits and VBA stroke in those older than <45 years. Positive associations were found between PCP visits and VBA stroke in all age groups. (pg. S176)
Murphy (2010) reported,
Therefore, based upon the best current evidence, it appears that there is no strong foundation for a causal relationship between CMT [Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy] and VADs [Vertebral Artery Dissection]. The most plausible explanation for the association between CMT and VADs is that individuals who are experiencing a vertebral artery dissection seek care from a chiropractic physician or other manual practitioner for relief of the neck pain and headache that results from the dissection. Sometime after the visit the dissection proceeds along its natural course to produce arterial blockage, leading to stroke. This natural progression from dissection to stroke appears to occur independent of the application of CMT. (pg. 4)
Church, Sieg, Hussain, Glantz and Harbaugh (2016) concluded, and an opinion that appears to reflect the facts of the issue and in accordance with those in chiropractic and medical academia based upon the author’s strong agreement:
Our systematic review revealed that the quality of the published literature on the relationship between chiropractic manipulation and CAD is very low. A meta-analysis of available data shows a small association between chiropractic neck manipulation and CAD. We uncovered evidence for considerable risk of bias and confounding in the available studies. In particular, the known association of neck pain both with cervical artery dissection and with chiropractic manipulation may explain the relationship between manipulation and CAD. There is no convincing evidence to support a causal link, and unfounded belief in causation may have dire consequences. (pg. 10)
In spite of the very weak data supporting an association between chiropractic neck manipulation and CAD, and even more modest data supporting a causal association, such a relationship is assumed by many clinicians. In fact, this idea seems to enjoy the status of medical dogma. (pg. 9)
That is the final definitive opinion of the Neurosurgery Department at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Mechanism of the Chiropractic
Effect of Sagittal Alignment on Kinematic Changes and Degree of Disc Degeneration in the Lumbar Spine
Part 4 of a 5 Part Series
William J Owens Jr
Mark E. Studin
A report on the scientific literature
More and more evidence is coming forward demonstrating both spinal stability and biomechanical balance as an important aspect of spine care. The good news is this is well within chiropractic’s scope, however many doctors of chiropractic are missing the education to accurately evaluate and objectify these types of biomechanical lesions. Our profession has spent most the last 122 years focused on TREATING these biomechanical lesions (Vertebral Subluxation, Joint Fixation, etc.) with little regard to the “assessment” component. The reason that is a critical statement, is that too often we treat compensation vs. the unstable joint.
Our founding doctors had used very specific techniques to analyze the spine from a functional perspective and most of our contemporary treatment techniques came out of these analysis, which are the basis for many of our most common techniques taught in today’s chiropractic academia. It seems in hindsight, that the major discussions of the time [early chiropractic] were about “identification” of the lesion to adjust, then evolved into the best WAY to deliver the adjustment.
Our roots and subsequently the true value and expertise of the doctor of chiropractic is in the assessment with treatment far secondary to an accurate diagnosis The medical community that both the authors and the doctors we teach no longer confuse our delivering of chiropractic care with a physical therapy manipulation or mobilization. The reason, our focus is on the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan BEFORE we render our treatment.
With medical specialists who understand spine, our conversation centers on spinal biomechanics and how a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment will restore sagittal/coronal alignment and coupled motion balance the spine. We discuss spinal biomechanics and have the literature and credentials to validate our diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. Chiropractic has been the leader in this treatment for over a century, but since we had chosen to stay outside of the mainstream healthcare system we had no platform to take a leadership position or be heard.
Medicine at both the academic and clinical levels are embracing chiropractic as the primary solution to mechanical spine issues (no fracture, tumor or infection) because as one primary care provider shared with us “traditional medical therapies inclusive of physical therapy has no basis in reality in how to treat these patients, which has led us in part, to the opiate crisis.” Part of the validation of what chiropractic offers in a biomechanical paradigm comes from surgical journals in the medical community.
Keorochana et al, (2011) published in Spine and out of UCLA, titled “To determine the effects of total sagittal lordosis on spinal kinematics and degree of disc degeneration in the lumbar spine. An analysis using positional MRI.” Remember that this article was 8 years ago and as a concept has evolved considerably since it was first discussed in the late 1990s. This is the clinical component of what Panjabi had successfully described and reproduced in the laboratory. It is now starting to become mainstream in clinical practice.
Many people ask why would surgeons care about the biomechanics of the spine when they are looking simply for an anatomical lesion to stabilize [fracture, tumor, infection, cord compression]? The authors answer this question by stating “It has also been a topic of great interest in the management of lumbar degenerative pathologies, especially when focusing on the role it may play in accelerating adjacent degeneration after spinal fusionand non-fusion procedures such as dynamic stabilization and total disc replacement.” [pg. 893]
They continue by stating “Alterations in the stress distribution may ultimately influence the occurrence of spinal degeneration. Moreover, changes in sagittal morphology may alter the mechanics of the lumbar spine, affecting mobility. Nevertheless, the relationships of sagittal alignment on lumbar degeneration and segmental motion have not been fully defined.” [pg. 893] This is precisely what our founding fathers called “Subluxation and Subluxation Degeneration!”
Regarding the type and number of patients in the study, the authors reported the following, “pMRIs [positional MRI] of the lumbar spine were obtained for 430 consecutive patients (241 males and 189 females) from February 2007 to February 2008. All patients were referred for pMRI [positional MRI – which included compression in both flexion and extension with a particular focus on segmentation translation and angular motions] due to complaints of low back pain with or without leg pain.” [pg. 894] This is the part where they looked for hypermobility.
In the first step in the analysis, the authors reviewed data regarding the global sagittal curvature as well as the individual angular segmental contributions to the curvature. The next step involved the classification of the severity of lumbar disc degeneration using the Pfirrmann classification system. [See Appendix A if you are not familiar]. This is where they looked for segmental degeneration. The patients were then classified based on the lordosis angle [T12-S1]. The groups were as follows:
Group A – Straight Spine or Kyphosis – [lordosis angle <20°]
Group B – Normal Lordosis – [lordosis angle 20° to < 50°]
Group C – Hyperlordosis – [lordosis angle >50°]
There is a structural categorization [lordosis] and a degenerative categorization [Pfirrmann] in this paper and the authors sought to see if there was a predictable relationship.
The results of this study were interesting and validated much of what the chiropractic profession has discussed relating to segmental “compensation” in the spine. Meaning, when one segment is hypomobile, adjacent segments will increase motility to compensate. The authors stated, “The sagittal lumbar spine curvature has been established as an important parameter when evaluating intervertebral disc loads and stresses in both clinical and cadaveric biomechanical investigations.” [pg. 896] They continue by stating “In vitro [in the laboratory or outside of the living organism] biomechanical tests do not take into account the influence of ligaments and musculature, and may not adequately address the complex biomechanics of the spine.” [pg. 896]
When it comes to spinal balance and distribution of loads in the spine, the authors reported “Our results may indicate that the border segments of lordosis, especially in the upper lumbar spine (L1–L2, L2–L3, and L3–L4), have greater motion in straight or kyphotic spines, and less segmental motion in hyperlordotic patients.” [pg. 896]
They continued by stating, “A greater degree of rigidity is found at the apical portion of straight or kyphotic spines, and more mobility is seen at the apical portion of hyperlordotic spines.” [pg. 897] Therefore, in both cases we see that changes in the sagittal configuration of the human spine has consequences for the individual segments involved.
This raises the question, “how does this related to accelerated degeneration of the motion segments involved?” [Subluxation Degeneration] The authors reported, “Regarding the relationship between the degree of disc degeneration and posture, subjects with straight or kyphotic spines tended to have a greater degree of disc degeneration at border segments, with statistical significance in the lower spine (L5–S1). On the other hand, hyperlordotic spines had a significantly greater degree of disc degeneration at the apex and upper spine (L4–L5 and L1–L2). The severity of disc degeneration tended to increase with increased mobility at the segments predisposed to greater degeneration (border segments of straight or kyphotic spines and apical segments of hyperlordotic spines).” [pg. 897]
The scientific literature and medicine is now validating (proving) what chiropractic has championed for 122+ years, that the human spine is a living neurobiomechanical entity, which responds to the changes in the external environment and compensates perpetually seeking a homeostatic equilibrium. We can now have verification that changes or compensation within the spinal system as a result of a bio-neuro-mechanical lesion (vertebral subluxation) results in degeneration (subluxation degeneration) of individual motion segments.
In conclusion, the authors state…
“Changes in sagittal alignment may lead to kinematic changes and influence load bearing and the distribution of disc degeneration at each level.” [pg. 897]
“Sagittal alignment may alter spinal load and mobility, possibly influencing segmental degeneration.” [pg. 897]
“Motion and the segmental contribution to the total mobility tended to be lower at the border of lordosis, especially at the upper segments, and higher at the apex of lordosis in more lordotic spines, whereas the opposite was seen in straight or kyphotic spines.” [pg. 897]
Although medicine is addressing this at the surgical level, as a profession they realize they have no conservative solutions, which has “opened the door” for the credentialed doctor of chiropractic to be in a leadership role in both teaching medicine about the role of the chiropractor as the primary spine care provider and the central focus of the care path for mechanical spine issues.
When communicating with patients and medical professionals it is critically important to educate them on what “current research” is showing and why it is important that this chiropractic approach to spine care is the future of spine care in the United States.
1. Keorochana, G., Taghavi, C. E., Lee, K. B., Yoo, J. H., Liao, J. C., Fei, Z., & Wang, J. C. (2011). Effect of sagittal alignment on kinematic changes and degree of disc degeneration in the lumbar spine: an analysis using positional MRI. Spine, 36(11), 893-898.
2. Teichtahl, A. J., Urquhart, D. M., Wang, Y., Wluka, A. E., Heritier, S. & Cicuttini, F. M. (2015). A dose-response relationship between severity of disc degeneration and intervertebral disc height in the lumbosacral spine. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 17(297). Retrieved from https://openi.nlm.nih.gov/detailedresult.php?img=PMC4619538_13075_2015_820_Fig1_HTML&req=4
3. Teraguchi, M., Yoshimura, N., Hashizume, H., Muraki,S., Yamada, H.,Minamide, A., Oka, H., Ishimoto, Y., Nagata, K. Kagotani, R., Takiguchi, N., Akune, T., Kawaguchi, H., Nakamura, K., & Yoshida, M. (2014). Prevalence and distribution of intervertebral disc degeneration over the entire spine in a population-based cohort: the Wakayama Spine Study. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 22(1). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1063458413010029
4. Puertas, E.B., Yamashita, H., Manoel de Oliveira, V., & Satiro de Souza, P. (2009). Classification of intervertebral disc degeneration by magnetic resonance. Acta Ortopédica Brasileira, 17(1). Retrieved from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1413-78522009000100009&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en
Should Chiropractic Follow the
American Chiropractic Association
/ American Board of Internal Medicine’s
Recommendations on X-Ray?
By Mark Studin
William J. Owens
In reviewing the American Chiropractic Associations’ (ACA) position on x-ray and adopting the posture of the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) initiative, “Choosing Wisely,” regarding x-ray, we must consider both the far-reaching effects of those recommendations as well as the education of the originators of the recommendations. In addition, the ACA in their 2017 published article Five Things Clinicians and Patients Should Question, they state, “The recommendations are not intended to prohibit any particular treatment in all scenarios or to dictate care decisions. They are also not intended to establish coverage decisions or exclusions” (https://www.acatoday.org/Patients-Choosing-Wisely?utm_campaign=sniply).
The ACA, a highly-regarded chiropractic political organization that has done a great deal in advancing the profession, is adopting the ABIM’s current position and regardless of the wording of the policy which, in the form of a disclaimer, is opining and setting precedent that can be used against individual practitioners or the entire profession. Granted, the underlying tone is to prevent unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation, but at what cost to patient care?
The scientific evidence has shown, and continues to show, chiropractic as being highly effective for managing and treating non-specific or mechanical spine pain. 2-3-4-5-6-7 In this article, we are only considering acute low back pain treatment to meet the scope of the ACA/ABIM policy and are therefore excluding all other conditions treated within the lawful scope of chiropractic. Mechanical spine pain, pain of non-anatomical origin, is defined as spine pain not originating from fracture, tumor, infection or specifically co-related to an anatomical lesion such as degenerative intervertebral disc disease, intervertebral disc bulge or intervertebral disc herniation. The ACA/ABIM states in the absence of “red flags,” imaging should not be considered for at least 6 weeks of care. Some of these “red flags” are clearly present on physical examination, others may not reveal themselves without radiographic evidence.
The definition of red flags by the American Chiropractic Association (2017):
Red flags include history of cancer, fracture or suspected fracture based on clinical history, progressive neurologic symptoms and infection, as well as conditions that potentially preclude a dynamic thrust to the spine, such as osteopenia, osteoporosis, axial spondyloarthritis and tumors. (https://www.acatoday.org/Patients-Choosing-Wisely?utm_campaign=sniply)
When considering the training of internal medicine physicians, we recognize they are focused on the diagnosis and management of systemic disease. However, when considering musculoskeletal diagnosis, basic medical training for internal medicine residency is quite the opposite. Although it is understandable given the current climate of spine pain management in the United States that the American Board of Internal Medicine would take a stance on spine care, I would consider the opinion of an internal medicine board valuable, but less authoritative than a board comprised of practicing spine specialists that is trained in the diagnosis and management of mechanical spine pain with specific treatment designed to deliver high velocity-low amplitude thrusts (chiropractic spinal adjustments). Interestingly, in this specific case, we have a chiropractic political organization agreeing with a medical board that is specifically trained on the diagnosis of internal medicine disorders with little or no training on the management of acute spine pain.
In an article written by Humphreys, Sulkowski, McIntyre, Kasiban, and Patrick (2007), they stated:
In the United States, approximately 10% to 25% of all visits to primary care medical doctors are for MSK [musculoskeletal] complaints, making it one of the most common reasons for consulting a physician...Specifically, it has been estimated that less than 5% of the undergraduate and graduate medical curriculum in the United States and 2.26% in Canadian medical schools is devoted to MSK medicine. (p. 44)
It should be noted that primary care medical doctors are not spine specialists and are generally comprised of family or internal medicine physicians. Medical school is lacking in musculoskeletal education, particularly in spine. Graduate level medical education including residency and fellowship training, only provides spine specialty training in those boards that are focused on spine care, namely orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery. It should also be noted that both orthopedic and neurosurgery disciplines are focused on the anatomical lesion in the spine as a primary method of determining the medical necessity of intervention.
Research has shown musculoskeletal complaints have a major impact on the healthcare system. Many patients believe that traditional medical providers are highly trained in diagnosis and management of musculoskeletal conditions and trust the referrals they provide to physical therapy as the best care path. A recent publication relating to basic competency have shown otherwise.
Humphreys et al. (2007) state:
A study by Childs et al on the physical therapists’ knowledge in managing MSK conditions found that only 21% of students working on their master’s degree in physical therapy and 25% of students working on their doctorate degree in physical therapy achieved a passing mark on the BCE [Basic Competency Examination]. (p. 45)
Humphreys et al. (2007) continued by reporting a comparative analysis:
The typical chiropractic curriculum consists of 4800 hours of education composed of courses in the biological sciences (i.e., anatomy, embryology, histology, microbiology, pathology, laboratory diagnosis, biochemistry, nutrition, and psychology), chiropractic sciences, and clinical sciences (i.e., clinical diagnosis, neurodiagnosis, orthorheumatology, radiology, and psychology). As the diagnosis, treatment, and management of MSK [musculoskeletal] disorders are the primary focus of the undergraduate curriculum as well as future clinical practice, it seems logical that chiropractic graduates should possess competence in basic MSK medicine. The objective of this study was to examine the cognitive (knowledge) competency of final-year chiropractic students in MSK medicine. (p. 45).
The following results were published in the article by Humphreys et al. (2007) relating to the Basic Competency Examination and evaluating the various professions that are on the “front line” in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Passing grades were attained by 22% of recent medical graduates, 20.7% of medical students, residents, and staff physicians, 33% of osteopathic students, 21% of MSc [masters] level physical therapy students, and 26 % of DPT [doctors of physical therapy] level physical therapy and chiropractic student 64.7%…
This indicates, that unless a “boarded internist” goes back for advanced education in physical medicine, neurology, orthopedics or neurosurgery, his/her basic competency is between 20% and 33% (if a DO) at best and it is the guidelines of that profession’s board that are being adopted by the ACA. In addition, no profession, inclusive of the ACA, is discussing the difference between a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment plan for mechanical spine pain. The only discussion is related to anatomical origins and anatomical spinal pathology. They are only considering the “red flags” of non-mechanical spine pain (to the detriment of the patient with mechanical spine pain), which only drives triage to medical specialists and ignores clinically necessary treatment plans focusing on the mechanical sources of pain found within chiropractic clinics globally.
The ACA/ABIM guidelines are very specific to low back pain and refer to the “routine use of imaging,” which is understood to be x-ray as the article uses the term “ionizing imaging.” However, it is not clear if they are also including CAT scan imaging as well. What their suggested “evidence-based recommendations” omits is the diagnosis of spinal biomechanical pathology and the osseous pathology that is discovered because of a complete clinical evaluation inclusive of spinal biomechanics, which ultimately protects our patients with an accurate spinal diagnosis. That consideration is something that board certified internal medicine practitioners do not have to be concerned with as it is outside of their focus of treatment. Typically, internal medicine physicians have less chance of causing harm to their patients in the short-term with a prescription pad (drug abuse is a topic for a different conversation) vs. a high velocity-low amplitude thrust, the primary treatment modality for the doctor of chiropractic. In this specific case it is the specific type of “treatment” that requires a specific level of diagnosis to be safe.
In the process of concluding an accurate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan, an assessment of the structural and biomechanical integrity of the spine is integral to specific treatment recommendations and visual assessment often fails.
Fedorak, Ashworth, Marshall and Paull (2003) reported:
This study has shown that the visual assessment of cervical and lumbar lordosis is unreliable. This tool only has fair intrarater reliability and poor interrater reliability. Visual assessment of spinal posture was previously shown to be inaccurate, and this study has demonstrated that is reliability is poor. (p. 1858)
In contrast, the reliability of x-ray in morphology, measurements and biomechanics has been determined accurate and reproducible.10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19 In addition, Ohara, Miyamoto, Naganawa, Matsumoto and Shimzu (2006) reported, “Assessment of the sagittal alignment of the spine is important in both clinical and research settings… and it is known that the alignment affects the distribution of the load on the intervertebral discs” (p. 2585).
Assessment of distribution or load of spinal biomechanics, if left aberrant, will result in the initiation of the piezoelectric effect and Wolff’s Law remodeling the spine. This is the basis for the subluxation degeneration theory which historically many have scoffed at as it is not considered to be based on scientific principles. We have now verified it based upon the research, and it is now a current and verifiable event that must be taken into consideration when assigning prognosis to a biomechanically flawed spine.
A very recent and timely study by Scheer et al. (2016) takes the biomechanical assessment of the spine to an entirely different level. This concept was originally presented at the 2015 American Academy of Neurosurgery symposium.
Scheer et al. (2016) state:
Several recent studies have demonstrated that regional spinal alignment and pathology can affect other spinal regions. These studies highlight the importance of considering the entire spine when planning for the surgical correction of ASD [adult spinal deformity/scoliosis]. (p. 109)
Scheer et al. (2016) continue:
Furthermore, the cervical spine plays a pivotal role in influencing adjacent and global spinal alignment as compensatory changes occur to maintain horizontal gaze. (p. 109).
Scheer et al. (2016) also wrote:
There has been a shift from the regional view of the spine to a more global perspective, and recent work has found concomitant spinal deformities in patients. Specifically, there is a high prevalence of CD [cervical deformity/loss of cervical lordosis] among adult patients with thoracolumbar spinal deformity. (p. 109).
Finally, according to Scheer et al. (2016):
Concomitant cervical positive sagittal alignment [loss of cervical curve] in adult patients with thoracolumbar deformity is strongly associated with inferior outcomes and failure to reach MCID [minimal clinically important difference] at 2-year follow-up compared with patients without CD [cervical deformity]. (p. 114)
We are seeing that biomechanical assessment is a critical component of spine care and is a trending topic in spine research. These topics are not addressed in the Board of Internal Medicine’s opinions and should be considered strongly prior to any chiropractic advocacy organization taking a position that would give doctors pause when attempting to fully diagnose their patients, no matter the disclaimers.
When it comes to spinal assessment particularly with stress views, Hammouri, Haimes, Simpson, Alqaqa and Grauer (2007) reported, “A survey questionnaire study recently completed by our laboratory confirmed that 43% of practicing spine surgeons also obtain dynamic flexion-extension views in the initial evaluation of those patients” (p. 2361). They later stated, “These findings led to no change in conservative management and no decision to go to surgery based solely from the dynamic flexion-extension radiographs” (p. 2363).
Hammouri et. al. (2007) also discussed the possible cumulative effects of small doses of radiation as another reason to avoid taking flexion-extension x-rays. This has been a position held by practitioners for years despite the evidence that diagnostic ionizing radiation has been proven to be non-carcinogenic. When examining the evidence, Tubiana, Feinendegen, Yang and Karminski (2009) reported:
Several studies in patients after x-ray–based examinations…have not detected any increase in leukemia or solid tumors. The only positive studies were in girls or young women after repeated chest fluoroscopic procedures for chronic tuberculosis…or scoliosis…Among these patients, excess breast cancer was detected only for cumulative doses greater than about 0.5 Gy. No other excess cancer appeared after cumulative doses up to 1 Gy. There was also no increased cancer after cardiac catheterization…
Several studies stressed the risk of cancer after diagnostic irradiation with x-rays by using the LNT [linear no-threshold] model…However, several investigators…have questioned these estimates because of their doubtful assumptions. An overestimate of the diagnostic radiology risk may deprive patients from adequate treatment. (p. 17)
When considering rendering a diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan, Hammouri et al. (2007) concluded that flexion-extension x-rays are not a determining factor for spinal surgery. However, chiropractic renders disparate treatment compared to surgeons and medical primary care doctors (family practice and internal medicine).
The authors of this current article recently sent a survey to the chiropractic profession and asked a simple question: Does the clinical use of x-rays change either your diagnosis, prognosis or treatment plan? The question was posed with the understanding that “screening purposes” are not considered clinically necessary and all testing and treatment orders must be consistent with a patient’s presentation and physical examination. The results demonstrated that 98.42% of those surveyed, used x-rays in their clinical practices that changed either the diagnosis, prognosis and/or the treatment plan.
The next question was when should an x-ray or any other type of imaging be considered? Clinically, if the patient has pain with limited range of motion in a spinal region upon either visual evaluation or dual inclinometry testing, the clinician should ask why is there biomechanical failure coupled with pain? In the absence of diagnosing anatomical (osseous or any other space occupying lesion) pathology, the aberrant verified biomechanics indicates failure at the connective tissue level (ligaments and tendons) and the mechanical source/rationale of the ensuing nociceptive, mechanoreceptive and proprioceptive neuro-pathological cascade. This in turn allows the practitioner to conclude an accurate diagnosis, prognosis and/or treatment plan based upon the pathological “listings” visualized. As reflected above with the 98.42% response, it is clear that when considering the biomechanical assessment of the human spine, x-ray analysis outside of simple anatomic pathology can change how a doctor of chiropractic manages and treats their patients.
The following is from a small sampling of responses we received from another survey of doctors nationwide. The instructions were to send over examples of how x-ray had changed their diagnoses, prognoses and/or treatment plans within the last 2-3 months. These responses underscored why chiropractors utilize x-ray and often need it to determine accurate mechanical diagnoses, prognoses and treatment plans prior to rendering care. Please note, the clinical protocols presented and x-ray diagnoses are all taught in CCE accredited chiropractic colleges and underscore the quality of a chiropractic education.
Male 70-year old. Presented in my office for 2nd opinion after the prior doctor of chiropractic did not take films. Focal sacral pain unchanged by position or movement. Plain lumbar/pelvic films revealed large radiolucency in sacrum. Patient referred out to MD/oncology for follow up. Diagnosis: Metastatic in nature.
Here is an example of how x-ray helped save a life. I had a patient 6 weeks ago come in with lumbar pain. The patient is 68yr old male with a history of lumbar pain but the pain recently became worse. During the history the patient relayed that they had recently been to their cardiologist for his regular checkup. I completed a thorough physical exam where the only positive findings were limited range of motion with pain in extension and left lateral flexion. I took lumbar x-rays of the patient. While reviewing the x-rays I noticed the outline of an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm that measured 5cm on my lateral films. I immediately told the patient to go to the emergency room and sent the films with him. The patient stated he did not want to go and he just was at his cardiologist. I insisted and the patient finally listened. The patient had immediate surgery to repair the aneurysm and I received a thank you call from the cardiologist!! More important the patient thanked me for saving his life!!
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms have a symptom of back pain. I will never touch a patient without being able to x-ray a patient. Who would have been blamed if my patient's aneurysm ruptured??
We had female patient in her thirties present to our office complaining of severe and unrelenting neck pain, with bilateral pain into her shoulders. She did not want an x-ray, however one of the other associates that I worked with convinced her to have two films, AP and lateral cervical. Those films revealed a lyric metastasis of the C5 vertebra, with almost a complete destruction of the vertebral body. Had she been adjusted without the images; the results would have been catastrophic.
54-year old male post MVA, Primary complaint = Low back pain, examination findings revealed positive orthopedic tests in the cervical and lumbar spine with diminished reflexes, upper and lower muscle strength 5/5. Cervical spine x-rays revealed a 3.28 mm anteriorlisthesis of C4 on C5, flexion view revealed an increased displacement to 8.28 mm. Extension view measured 5.48 mm.
Imaging altered treatment plan: Without the x-ray study, the unstable C4 would go undetected and as a result of the x-ray findings the patient was recommended to wear a c-spine collar and have a c-spine MRI. The MRI revealed a 4 x 10 mm left paracentral herniated disc with annular tear compressing the cord by 75% with myelomalacia. It also leaked into the right neural canal compressing the right C4 nerve root. I called my neurosurgeon and he will be in surgery tomorrow. Given the fragmentation of the cord seen on MRI, I shudder to think what would have happened if a high velocity thrust was introduced to his neck!
A patient presented with mild to moderate low back pain. Images revealed a secondary spondylolesthesis and contraindicated in a lumbar side posture. This has happened many times before and once again, prevented me from hurting my patient.
I had a patient that presented with low back pain. The lumbar film showed a 66mm aneurysm. I immediately sent him to the hospital where he was admitted and went into emergency surgery for repair. This could have ended very badly without those x-rays.
36-year old female with acute neck pain, insidious, limited cervical ROM, positive cervical tests, pain worse at night, pain described as "deep, boring, nauseating". AP and lateral cervical x-rays taken in my office revealed complete absence of C5 vertebral body. I immediately referred patient to the local ER with films in hand.
Parents brought their 10-year old son for a second opinion to evaluate a mass on the side of his neck. Their pediatrician had sent them home and told them to check back in 3 days if it didn't resolve. I took AP and lateral cervical films. Both showed the mass but particularly concerning was the AP showed the laryngeal shadow deviated laterally from the pressure of the mass. I told them not to wait 3 days but to go directly to the local emergency department. The local hospital immediately put him in an ambulance and sent him to the children's hospital in Miami. Pediatricians at the children's hospital told the parents the next day, he wouldn't have survived the night had they not taken him to the E.D. on my recommendation, based on the x-ray findings.
I had a 22-year old male present to my office complaining of bilateral low back pain and occasional mild numbness and tingling in his left leg for about 4 years following an injury at wrestling practice when he was 17 years old. Even though the complaints were moderate and his injury was 4 years old, I decided to take lumbar x-rays including oblique views. The x-rays revealed bilateral L3 and L4 pars fractures. I then took lumbar flexion/extension views which revealed a 5mm anterior translation of L4 on L5. His MRI evaluation was unremarkable and without these x-rays there would have seemed to be no contraindication to diversified adjustments including side posture. Had I not taken these x-rays, I would likely have delivered a high velocity thrust into an unstable region of the patient’s spine, potentially injuring him further. Instead, I sent him for an immediate surgical consultation.
Several days ago, a 30-year old female patient presented with a primary complaint of low back pain, neck stiffness and previous diagnosis of ocular migraines by her Neurologist. Radiographs of her Cervical and Lumbar spine were taken to evaluate her spine. A fracture of the vertebral body of C5 was found at the posterior and inferior aspect with an increase in spacing noted at the fracture site on flexion view.
I had a 15-year-old girl present to my office with severe neck pain. She stated that she had no injuries or trauma that she was aware of. She just "woke up with it". The examination revealed that she was not able to turn her head at all -literally zero range of motion in any direction. Something didn't seem right and I decided to take an x-ray. Her X-ray revealed a burst fracture of C1. It turns out that her mother who signed all the consent forms and dropped her off at my office gave her strict instructions not to tell me about the minor fender bender she was in the day before. Also, the daughter explained later that she had landed on the top of her head during volleyball about a year before. After the volleyball accident she had presented to the emergency room but they decided not to take an x-ray and told her she was fine. I sent her to the emergency room. They took an x-ray and sent her home saying there was no fracture. Later the radiologist called her back insisting she return to the hospital immediately. They confirmed the fracture. I think it is quite safe to assume what would've happened if I tried to adjust her.
I had a patient who was having pain in the mid thoracic region between the spine and the scapula. The patient had been to another chiropractor who did not take x-rays, and who did not get good clinical results. I examined and x-rayed the patient. I saw an abnormal mass in the lung field. I sent the patient to a local radiology center and ordered a plain film chest x-ray, the radiologist confirmed a mass in the right lung.
Based upon the literature, radiation is not cumulative and has rendered no evidence of long term effects. Therefore, the doctor of chiropractic must weigh the risk of treating blindly in the presence of clear biomechanical markers. Treating blindly is often done at the expense of our patients and the malpractice carriers, especially in a scenario where little risk exists. Our concern is the adoption of recommendations or guidelines that are deficient in the published and clinical evidence at hand. There also needs to be a larger clinical and academic conversation interprofessionally, to educate organizations like the ABIM and others who access spine patients, where together we can collaboratively, across professional boundaries, devise care paths to better serve society.
Dr. Mark Studin is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Chiropractic at the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic, an Adjunct Professor of Clinical Sciences at Texas Chiropractic College and a clinical presenter for the State of New York at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences 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 (www.DoctorsPIProgram.com), teaches MRI interpretation and triaging trauma cases to doctors of all disciplines nationally and studies trends in healthcare on a national scale (www.TeachDoctors.com). He can be reached at DrMark@AcademyOfChiropractic.com 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 School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, 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 email@example.com or www.mdreferralprogram.com or 716-228-3847
The Mechanism of the Chiropractic
Part 3 of a 5 Part Series
By: Mark Studin
William J. Owens
A report on the scientific literature
Citation: Studin M., Owens W., (2017) The Mechanism of the Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment/Manipulation: Bio-Neuro-Mechanical Component Part 3 of 5, American Chiropractor 39 (7), pgs. 30,32,34, 36, 38, 40-41
In part 1 of this series, we discussed the osseous mechanisms of the chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA) and in part 2 we discussed the mechanical and neurological functions of connective tissue. It is in this connective tissue as well as in other neurological components located in the osseous structures of the spine that the primary effector structures of a CSA are to be found. To fully understand the bio-neuro-mechanical mechanism of the CSA, we must explore the mechanical aspect of the chiropractic adjustment, what effect it has on the neurological effector organs, how the spine and brain are inter-related and finally, how the muscles and ligaments (intervertebral discs) working in tandem effectuate homeostasis.
Kent (1996) reported:
Dishman and Lantz developed and popularized the five component model of the “vertebral subluxation complex” attributed to Faye. However, the model was presented in a text by Flesia dated 1982, while the Faye notes bear a 1983 date.The original model has five components:
1. Spinal kinesiopathology
5. Biochemical changes.
The “vertebral subluxation complex” model includes tissue specific manifestations described by Herfert which include:
1. Osseous component
2. Connective tissue involvement, including disc, other ligaments, fascia, and muscles
3.The neurological component, including nerve roots and spinal cord
4. Altered biomechanics
5. Advancing complications in the innervated tissues and/or the patient’s symptoms. This is sometimes termed the “end tissue phenomenon” of the vertebral subluxation complex.
Lantz has since revised and expanded the “vertebral sub- luxation complex” model to include nine components:
4. Connective tissue physiology
6. Inflammatory response
Lantz summarized his objectives in expanding the model: “The VSC allows for every aspect of chiropractic clinical management to be integrated into a single conceptual model, a sort of ‘unified field theory’ of chiropractic… (p.1)
However, like many theories, these concepts have proven close to accurate and this report of the literature, although not designed to prove or disprove the Vertebral Subluxation Complex, validated many of the previous “beliefs” based upon contemporary findings in the literature and personal clinical experience, which along with patient expectations, are the three key components to evidence-based medicine.
In Part 1, we discussed specific biomechanical references in modern literature.
Evans (2002) reported:
…on flexion of the lumbar spine, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with it. On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying "lesion" under the capsule: a meniscoid entrapment…A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent impaction of the meniscoid. (p. 252-253)
This verifies that with a vertebrate out of position, there is a negative neurological sequella that causes a “cascade effect” bio-neuro-mechanically. Historically, this has been objectively identified and in chiropractic practices called a vertebral subluxation. This nomenclature has been accepted federally by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as an identifiable lesion, for which the chiropractic profession has specific training in its diagnosis and management.
To further clarify the modern literature, Panjabi (2006) stated:
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 theneuromuscular control unit which helps to generate muscular spinal stability via the spinal muscle system and neuromuscular control unit. (p. 669)
Panjabi (2006) reported:
1. Single trauma or cumulative microtrauma causes subfailure injury of the spinal ligaments and injury to the mechanoreceptors [and nociceptors] 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 [and nociceptors] 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 [and nociceptors], 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. (p. 669-670)
This indicates that once there is a bio-neuro-mechanical lesion (aka vertebral subluxation), there is a “negative cascade” both structurally (biomechanically) and neurologically in the body’s attempt to create homeostasis. However, should the cause of the lesion not be “fixed,” the entire system will perpetually fail. Over time, due to the Piezoelectric effect and Wolff’s Law of remodeling, the skeletal structure is now permanently altered. Therefore, treatment goals then switch from curative to simply management and is a long-term process.
In part 2, we discussed subfailure,and will examine it again as explained by Solomnow (2009).
Inflammatory response in ligaments is initiated whenever the tissue is subjected to stresses which exceed its routine limits at a given time. For example, a sub-injury/failure load, well within the physiological limits of a ligament when applied to the ligament by an individual who does not do that type of physical activity routinely. (p. 143)
Jaumard, Welch and Winkelstein (2011) reported:
In the capsular ligament under stretch, the collagen fiber structure and the nerve endings embedded in that network and cells (fibroblasts, macrophages) are all distorted and activated. Accordingly, capsular deformations of certain magnitudes can trigger a wide range of neuronal and inflammatory responses…Although most of the proprioceptive and nociceptive afferents have a low-strain threshold (~10%) for activation, a few receptors have a high-strain threshold (42%) for signal generation via neural discharge. In addition, capsular strains greater than 47% activate nociceptors with pain signals transmitted directly to the central nervous system. Among both the low- and high-strain threshold neural receptors in the capsular ligament a few sustain their firing even after the stretching of the capsular ligament is released. This persistent afterdischarge evident for strains above 45% constitutes a peripheral sensitization that may lead to central sensitization with long-term effects in some cases. (p. 12)
The cascade effect works in 2 directions, one to create a bio-neuro-mechanically failed spinal system and one to correct a bio-neuro-mechanically failed system.
Pickar (2002) reported:
The mechanical force introduced into the during a spinal manipulation (CSA) may directly alter segmental biomechanics by releasing trapped meniscoids, releasing adhesions or by reducing distortion of the annulus fibrosis. (p. 359)
This fact verifies that there is an osseous-neurological component that exists with the nociceptors at the facet level.
Pickar (2002) also stated:
In addition, the mechanical thrust could either stimulate or silence nonnociceptive, mechanosensitive receptive nerve endings in paraspinal tissue, including skin, muscle, tendons, ligaments, facet joints and intervertebral disc. (p. 359)
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM MODULATION
When discussing central nervous system activity as a direct sequella to a CSA, we must divide our reporting into 2 components, reflexively at the area being adjusted and through higher cortical responses. When discussing local reflexive activity, we must also determine if it is critical to adjust the specific segment in question or if the adjustment will elicit neurological and end organ (muscle) responses to help create a compensatory action for the offending lesion.
Reed and Pickar (2015) reported in an animal study:
First, during clinically relevant spinal manipulative thrust durations (<=150 ms), unilateral intervertebral joint fixation significantly decreases paraspinal muscle spindle response compared with non-fixated conditions. Second and perhaps more importantly, this study shows that while L6 muscle spindle response decreases with L4 HVLA-SM, 60%-80% of an L6 HVLA-SM muscle spindle response is still elicited from an HVLA-SM delivered 2 segments away in both the absence and presence of intervertebral joint fixation. These findings may have clinical implications concerning specific (targeted) versus nonspecific (nontargeted) HVLA-SM. (p. E755-E756)
Reed and Pickar (2015) also reported:
The finding that nontarget HVLA-SM delivered 2 segments away elicited significantly less but yet a substantial percentage (60%–80%) of the neural response elicited during target HVLA-SM may have important clinical implications with regard to HVLA-SM thrust accuracy/specificity requirements. It may explain how target vs non-target site manual therapy interventions can show similar clinical efficacy. In a recent study using the same model as the current study, the increase in L6 muscle spindle response caused by an HVLA-SM is not different between 3 anatomical thrust contact sites (spinous process, lamina, and mammillary body) on the target L6 vertebra but is significantly less when the contact site is located 1 segment caudal at L7…The current study confirms that a nontarget HVLA-SM compared with a target HVLA-SM decreases spindle response but adds the caveat that a substantial percentage (60%–80%) of afferent response can be elicited from an HVLA-SM delivered 2 segments away irrespective of the absence or presence of intervertebral fixation. (p. E756)
Coronado, Gay, Bialosky, Carnaby, Bishop and George (2012) reported that:
Reductions in pain sensitivity, or hypoalgesia, following SMT [spinal manipulative therapy or the chiropractic adjustment] may be indicative of a mechanism related to the modulation of afferent input or central nervous system processing of pain…The authors theorized the observed effect related to modulation of pain primarily at the level of the spinal cord since 1.) these changes were seen within lumbar innervated areas and not cervical innervated areas and 2.) the findings were specific to a measure of pain sensitivity (temporal summation of pain), and not other measures of pain sensitivity, suggesting an effect related to attenuation of dorsal horn excitability and not a generalized change in pain sensitivity. (p. 752)
These findings indicate that a chiropractic spinal adjustment affects the central nervous system specifically at the interneuron level in the dorsal horn. This is part of the cascade effect of the CSA where we now have objectively identified the mechanism of the central nervous system stimulation and its effects.
Gay, Robinson, George, Perlstein and Bishop (2014)
…pain-free volunteers processed thermal stimuli applied to the hand before and after thoracic spinal manipulation (a form of MT [Manual Therapy]). What they found was, after thoracic manipulation, several brain regions demonstrated a reduction in peak BOLD [blood-oxygen-level–dependent] activity. Those regions included the cingulate, insular, motor, amygdala and somatosensory cortices, and the PAG [periaqueductal gray regions].
The purpose of this study was to investigate the changes in FC [functional changes] between brain regions that process and modulate the pain experience after MT [manual therapy]. The primary outcome was to measure the immediate change in FC across brain regions involved in processing and modulating the pain experience and identify if there were reductions in experimentally induced myalgia and changes in local and remote pressure pain sensitivity. (p. 615)
Therefore, a thoracic CSA adjustment produced direct and measurable effects on the central nervous system across multiple regions, specifically the cingular cortex, insular cortex, motor cortex, amygdala cortex, somatosensory cortex and periaqueductal gray matter. This could only occur if “higher centers,” also known as the central nervous system, were affected.
Gay, Robinson, George, Perlstein and Bishop (2014) went on to report:
Within the brain, the pain experience is subserved by an extended network of brain regions including the thalamus (THA), primary and secondary somatosensory, cingulate, and insular cortices. Collectively, these regions are referred to as thepain processing network(PPN) and encode the sensory discriminate and cognitive and emotional components of the pain experience. Perception of pain is dependent not merely on the neural activity within the PPN [pain processing network] but also on the flexible interactions of this network with other functional systems, including the descending pain modulatory system. (p. 617)
Daligadu, Haavik, Yielder, Baarbe, and Murphy (2013) reported that:
Numerous studies indicate that significant cortical plastic changes are present in various musculoskeletal pain syndromes. In particular, altered feed-forward postural adjustments have been demonstrated in a variety of musculoskeletal conditions including anterior knee pain, low back pain and idiopathic neck pain. Furthermore, alterations in trunk muscle recruitment patterns have been observed in patients with mechanical low back pain. (p. 527)
This concludes that there are observable changes in the function of the central nervous system seen in patients with musculoskeletal conditions and chronic pain. Chiropractors have observed this clinically and it demonstrates the necessity for chiropractic care for both short and long-term management of biomechanical spinal conditions.
Although there is significantly more research verifying what occurs with a CSA, the above outlines the basics of how the adjustment works both biomechanically and neurologically from the connective tissue and peripheral nerves to the central nervous system both at the cord level and higher cortical regions. The final question is one of public safety.
Based on their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed, Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified” (p. 265).
Part 4 will be the evidence of subluxation degeneration and the literature verifying the mechanisms. Part 5, the final part of our series, will be an in-depth contemporary comparative analysis of the chiropractic spinal adjustment vs. physical therapy joint mobilization.
1. Kent, C. (1996). Models of vertebral subluxation: A review. Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research, 1(1), 1-7.
2. 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.
3. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2017). Medicare coverage for chiropractic services – Medical record documentation requirements for initial and subsequent visits. MLN Matters, Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNMattersArticles/downloads/SE1601.pdf
4. Panjabi, M. M. (2006). A hypothesis of chronic back pain: Ligament subfailure injuries lead to muscle control dysfunction.European Spine Journal,15(5), 668-676.
5. Solomonow, M. (2009). Ligaments: A source of musculoskeletal disorders.Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies,13(2), 136-154.
6. Jaumard, N. V., Welch, W. C., & Winkelstein, B. A. (2011). Spinal facet joint biomechanics and mechanotransduction in normal, injury and degenerative conditions.Journal of Biomechanical Engineering,133(7), 071010.
7. Pickar, J. G. (2002). Neurophysiological effects of spinal manipulation.Spine,2(5), 357-371.
8. Reed, W. R., & Pickar, J. G. (2015). Paraspinal muscle spindle response to intervertebral fixation and segmental thrust level during spinal manipulation in an animal model.Spine,40(13), E752-E759.
9. Coronado, R. A., Gay, C. W., Bialosky, J. E., Carnaby, G. D., Bishop, M. D., & George, S. Z. (2012). Changes in pain sensitivity following spinal manipulation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Electromyography Kinesiology, 22(5), 752-767.
10. Gay, C. W., Robinson, M. E., George, S. Z., Perlstein, W. M., & Bishop, M. D. (2014). Immediate changes after manual therapy in resting-state functional connectivity as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging in participants with induced low back pain.Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 37(9), 614-627.
11. Daligadu, J., Haavik, H., Yielder, P. C., Baarbe, J., & Murphy, B. (2013). Alterations in coritcal and cerebellar motor processing in subclinical neck pain patients following spinal manipulation.Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 36(8), 527-537.
12. 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.
The Mechanism of the Chiropractic
Ligaments and the Bio-Neuro-Mechanical Component
Part 2 of a 5 Part Series
By: Mark Studin
William J. Owens
A report on the scientific literature
Citation: Studin M., Owens W., (2017) The Mechanism of the Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment/Manipulation: Ligaments and the Bio-Neuro-Mechanical Component, Part 2 of 5, American Chiropractor 39 (6), pgs. 22,24-26, 28-31
When we consider the mechanism of the spinal adjustment/manipulation as discussed in part 1 of this series, for clarity for the chiropractic profession, it will be solely referred to as a chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA) so as not to confuse chiropractic treatment with either physical therapy or osteopathy. In analyzing how the CSA works, we must go beyond the actual adjustment or thrust and look at the tissue and structures that “frame” the actions. Although there are osseous borders and boundaries, there is a significant network of connective tissue that plays a major role in the CSA. We will focus this discussion on the ligaments that both act as restraints to the human skeleton and also function as sensory organs, we will also examine the role of the muscles and tendons that interact with the ligaments. It is critical to realize that muscles act as active and amplified restraints in the spinal system.
The neurological innervations of the ligaments play a significant role in influencing the central nervous system, both reflexively and through brain pathways. Those innervations either support homeostasis in a balanced musculoskeletal environment or creates confusion in a system that has been impaired either post-traumatically or systemically. The human body does not discriminate the etiology of biomechanical failure, it only reacts to create a “low energy” or neutral state utilizing the lowest amount of energy to function. This balanced or “low energy state” is considered the most optimal function state as nervous system function is not compromised by aberrant sensory input, this is why a “low energy state” is considered the highest function state.
With understanding the full functional and resultant role of the ligaments and other connective tissues in either macro or repetitive micro traumas, bio-neuro-mechanical failure (something we have historically called vertebral subluxation) occurs. This is the basis for chiropractic care and explains why immediate (pain management), intermediate (corrective) and long-term (wellness or health maintenance) care are necessary to reintegrate the bio-neuro-mechanical system of the human body. Often, the best we can accomplish as practitioners is to support compensation secondary to tissue failure to slow down the resultant joint remodeling and neurological corruption/compromise.
Solomonow (2009) wrote:
The functional complexity of ligaments is amplified when considering their inherent viscoelastic properties such as creep, tension–relaxation, hysteresis and time or frequency-dependent length–tension behavior. As joints go through their range of motion, with or without external load, the ligaments ensure that the bones associated with the joint travel in their prescribed anatomical tracks, keep full and even contact pressure of the articular surfaces, prevent separation of the bones from each other by increasing their tension, as may be necessary, and ensuring stable motion. Joint stability, therefore, is the general role of ligaments without which the joint may subluxate, cause damage to the capsule, cartilage, tendons, nearby nerves and blood vessels, discs (if considering spinal joints) and to the ligaments themselves. Such injury may debilitate the individual by preventing or limiting his/her use of the joint and the loss of function…Dysfunctional or ruptured ligaments, therefore, result in a complex- syndrome, various sensory–motor disorders and other long-term consequences, which impact the individual’s well-being, his athletic activities, employer, skilled work force pool and national medical expenses. (p. 137)
Ligaments are closely packed collagen fibers that are helical at rest in a crimp pattern. This crimp pattern allows the ligament to recruit other fibers when stressed to support the joint and helps prevent ligamentous failure or subfailure (tearing of the ligament). They are comprised of collagen and elastin which give them both tensile strength and elasticity with no two joints being alike in composition. Each joint has a specific biomechanical role and varies depending upon the needs of that joint.
Solomonow (2008) continued:
As axial stretching of a ligament is applied, fibers or bundles with a small helical wave appearance straighten first and begin to offer resistance (increased stiffness) to stretch. As the ligament is further elongated, fibers or fiber bundles of progressively larger helical wave straighten and contribute to the overall stiffness. Once all the fibers are straightened, a sharp increase in stiffness is observed. (p. 137)
Solomonow (2008) later stated:
Over all, the mostly collagen (75%), elastin and other substances structure of ligaments is custom tailored by long evolutionary processes to provide various degrees of stiffness at various loads and at various ranges of motion of a joint, while optimally fitting the anatomy inside (inter-capsular) or outside (extra-capsular) a given joint. The various degrees of helical shape of the different fibers allows generation of a wide range of tensile forces by the fiber recruitment process, whereas the overall geometry of the ligament allows selective recruitment of bundles such as to extend function over a wide range of motion. The large content of water (70%) and the cross weave of the long fibers by short fibers provides the necessary lubrication for bundles to slide relative to each other, yet to remain bundled together and generate stiffness in the transverse directions.(p. 137)
Length–tension and recruitment: The general length–tension (or strain–stress) behavior of a ligament is non-linear…The initial [reports] demonstrate rather large strain for very small increase in load. Once all the waves in the collagen fibers of the ligament have been straightened out, and all of the fibers were recruited, additional increase in strain is accompanied with a fast increase in tension…
Creep: When a constant load is applied to a ligament, it first elongates to a given length. If left at the same constant load, it will continue to elongate over time in an exponential fashion up to a finite maximum…
Tension–relaxation:When ligaments are subjected to a stretch and hold over time (or constant elongation) the tension–relaxation phenomena is observed. The tension in the ligament increases immediately upon the elongation to a given value. As time elapses, the tension decreases exponentially to a finite minimum while the length does not change…
Strain rate: The tension developed in a ligament also depends on the rate of elongation or strain rate (Peterson, 1986). In general, slow rates of elongation are associated with the development of relatively low tension, whereas higher rates of elongation result in the development of high tension. Fast stretch of ligaments, such as in high-frequency repetitive motion or in sports activities are known to result in high incidents of ligamentous damage or rupture…Fast rates of stretch, therefore, may exceed the physiological loads that could be sustained by a ligament safely, yet it may still be well within the physiological length range. Development of high tension in the ligaments may result in rupture and permanent sensory–motor deficit to the joint in addition to deficit in its structural functions. (p. 137-139)
Author’s note: A fast strain rate within the physiological limit may also cause ligamentous damage as the ligament hasn’t had enough time to adapt (stretch) to its new tensile demand and this is called a “sub-failure.”
“This phenomenon is associated with repetitive motion when a series of stretch-release cycles are performed over time (Solomnow, 1008, p. 140).
Ligament Reaction to Trauma and Healing
Solomnow (2008) stated:
Ligament Inflammation: Inflammatory response in ligaments is initiated whenever the tissue is subjected to stresses which exceed its routine limits at a given time. For example, a sub-injury/failure load, well within the physiological limits of a ligament when applied to the ligament by an individual who does not do that type of physical activity routinely. The normal homeostatic metabolic, cellular, circulatory and mechanical limits are therefore exceeded by the load, triggering an inflammatory response…
Another case where acute inflammation is present is when physical activities presenting sudden overload/stretch cause a distinct damage to the tissue which is felt immediately. Such cases, as a sudden loss of balance, a fall, collision with another person, exposure to unexpected load, etc., may result in what is called a sprain injury or a partial rupture of the ligament. Acute inflammation sets in within several hours and may last several weeks and up to 12 months. The healing process, however, does not result in full recovery of the functional properties of the tissue. Mostly, only up to 70% of the ligaments original structural and functional characteristics are attained by healing post-injury (Woo et al. 1990)...
Chronic inflammation is an extension of an acute inflammation when the tissue is not allowed to rest, recover and heal. Repetitive exposure to physical activity and reloading of the ligament over prolonged periods without sufficient rest and recovery represent cumulative micro-trauma. The resulting chronic inflammation is associated with atrophy and degeneration of the collagen matrix leaving a permanently damaged, weak and non-functional ligament (Leadbenter, 1990). The dangerous aspect of a chronic inflammation is the fact that it builds up silently over many weeks, months or years (dependent on a presently unknown dose-duration levels of the stressors) and appears one day as a permanent disability associated with pain, limited motion, weakness and other disorders (Safran, 1985). Rest and recovery of as much as 2 years allows only partial resolution of the disability (Woo and Buckwalter, 1988). Full recovery was never reported. (p. 143-144)
Hauser et al. (2013) reported that once a ligament is overloaded in either a failure or subfailure, then the tissue fails which results in partial or complete tears known as a sprain. When this occurs, the body “attempts” to repair the damaged ligament, but cannot completely.
Hauser et al. (2013) wrote:
With time, the tissue matrix starts to resemble normal ligament tissue; however, critical differences in matrix structure and function persist. In fact, evidence suggests that the injured ligament structure is replaced with tissue that is grossly, histologically, biochemically, and biomechanically similar to scar tissue. (p. 6)
Hauser et al. (2013) also stated:
The persisting abnormalities present in the remodeled ligament matrix can have profound implications on joint biomechanics, depending on the functional demands placed on the tissue. Since remodeled ligament tissue is morphologically and biomechanically inferior to normal ligament tissue, ligament laxity results, causing functional disability of the affected joint and predisposing other soft tissues in and around the joint to further damage. (p. 7)
Hauser et al. (2013) further said:
In fact, studies of healing ligaments have consistently shown that certain ligaments do not heal independently following rupture, and those that do heal, do so with characteristically inferior compositional properties compared with normal tissue. It is not uncommon for more than one ligament to undergo injury during a single traumatic event. (p. 8)
Author’s note: Ligaments are made with fibroblasts which produce collagen and elastin, and model the ligament throughout puberty. Once puberty is over, the fibroblasts stop producing any ligamentous tissue and remain dormant. Upon injury, the fibroblast activates, but now can only produce collagen, leaving the joint stiffer and in a biomechanically compromised functional environment. The above comment verifies that in the literature.
Hauser et al. (2013) explained:
Osteoarthritis [OA] or joint degeneration is one of the most common consequences of ligament laxity. Traditionally, the pathophysiology of OA was thought to be due to aging and wear and tear on a joint, but more recent studies have shown that ligaments play a crucial role in the development of OA. OA begins when one or more ligaments become unstable or lax, and the bones begin to track improperly and put pressure on different areas, resulting in the rubbing of bone on cartilage. This causes the breakdown of cartilage and ultimately leads to deterioration, whereby the joint is reduced to bone on bone, a mechanical problem of the joint that leads to abnormality of the joint’s mechanics.
Hypermobility and ligament laxity have become clear risk factors for the prevalence of OA. The results of spinal ligament injury show that over time the inability of the ligaments to heal causes an increase in the degeneration of disc and facet joints, which eventually leads to osteochondral degeneration. (p. 9)
Ligaments as Sensory Organs
Spinal pain and the effects of the chiropractic spinal adjustment is both central and peripheral in etiology. According to Studin and Owens (2016), the CSA also affects the central nervous system with systemic sequelae verifying that chiropractic supports systemic changes and is not comprised solely of “back pain providers.” Although chiropractic is not limited to pain, chiropractors do treat back pain, inclusive of all spinal regions. Regarding pain, much of the pain generators originate in the ligaments.
Solomonow (2009) wrote:While ligaments are primarily known for mechanical support for joint stability, they have equally important sensory functions. Anatomical studies demonstrate that ligaments in the extremity joints and the spine are endowed with mechanoreceptors consisting of: Pacinian, Golgi, Ruffini and bare nerve endings. (Burgess and Clark, 1969; Freeman and Wyke, 1967a,b; Gardner, 1944; Guanche et al., 1995; Halata et al., 1985; Jackson et al., 1966; Mountcastle, 1974; Petrie et al., 1988, Schulz et al. 1984, Sjölander, 1989; Skoglund, 1956; Solomonow et al., 1996; Wyke, 1981; Yahia and Newman, 1991; Zimney and Wink, 1991). The presence of such afferents in the ligaments confirms that they contribute to proprioception and kinesthesia and may also have a distinct role in reflex activation or inhibition of muscular activities.(p. 144)
Dougherty (n.d.) reported:
Pacinian corpusclesare found in subcutaneous tissue beneath the dermis…and in the connective tissues of bone [ligaments and tendons], the body wall and body cavity. Therefore, they can be cutaneous, proprioceptive or visceral receptors, depending on their location…
When a force is applied to the tissue overlying the Pacinian corpuscle…its outer laminar cells, which contain fluid, are displaced and distort the axon terminal membrane. If the pressure is sustained on the corpuscle, the fluid is displaced, which dissipates the applied force on the axon terminal. Consequently, a sustained force on the Pacinian corpuscle is transformed into a transient force on its axon terminal. The Pacinian corpuscle 1° afferent axon response is rapidly adapting and action potentials are only generated when the force is first applied. (http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/ s2/chapter02.html)
Dougherty (n.d.) stated:
TheRuffini corpusclesare found deep in the skin…as well as in joint ligaments and joint capsules and can function as cutaneous or proprioceptive receptors depending on their location. The Ruffini corpuscle…is cigar-shaped, encapsulated, and contains longitudinal strands of collagenous fibers that are continuous with the connective tissue of the skin or joint. Within the capsule, the 1° afferent fiber branches repeatedly and its branches are intertwined with the encapsulated collagenous fibers. (http://neuroscience.uth.tmc. edu/s2/chapter02.html) “Ruffini corpuscles in skin are considered to be skin stretch sensitive receptors of the discriminative touch system. They also work with the proprioceptors in joints and muscles to indicate the position and movement of body parts” (Dougherty, http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/s2/chapter02.html).
Dougherty (n.d.) stated:
Golgi tendon organsare found in the tendons of striated extrafusal muscles near the muscle-tendon junction…Golgi tendon organs resemble Ruffini corpuscles. For example, they are encapsulated and contain intertwining collagen bundles, which are continuous with the muscle tendon, and fine branches of afferent fibers that weave between the collagen bundles…They are functionally "in series" with striated muscle. (http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/s2/ chapter02.html)
“TheGolgi tendon organis a proprioceptor that monitors and signals muscle contraction against a force (muscle tension), whereas the muscle spindle is a proprioceptor that monitors and signals muscle stretch (muscle length)” (Dougherty, http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/ s2/chapter02.html).
Dougherty (n.d.) stated:
…free nerve endings of 1° afferents are abundant in muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments. These free nerve endings are considered to be the somatosensory receptors for pain resulting from muscle, tendon, joint, or ligament damage and are not considered to be part of the proprioceptive system. [These free nerve endings are called nociceptors.]
Solomonow (2009) commented:
The presence of such afferents in the ligaments confirms that they contribute to proprioception and kinesthesia and may also have a distinct role in reflex activation or inhibition of muscular activities…
Overall, the decrease or loss of function in a ligament due to rupture or damage does not only compromise its mechanical contributions to joint stability, but also sensory loss of proprioceptive and kinesthetic perception and fast reflexive activation of muscles and the forces they generate in order to enforce joint stability…
It was suggested, as far back as the turn of the last century, that a reflex may exist from sensory receptors in the ligaments to muscles that may directly or indirectly modify the load imposed on the ligament (Payr, 1900)…A clear demonstration of a reflex activation of muscles was finally provided in 1987 (Solomonow et al., 1987) and reconfirmed several times since then (beard et al., 1994; Dyhre-Poulsen and Krogsgard, 2000; Raunest et al., 1996; Johansson et al., 1989; Kim et al., 1995). It was further shown that such a ligamento-muscular reflex exists in most extremity joints (Freeman and Wyke, 1967b; Guanche et al., 1995, Knatt et al., 1995; Schaible and Schmidt, 1983; Schaible et al., 1986; Solomonow et al., 1996; Phillips et al., 1997; Solomonow and Lewis, 2002) and in the spine (Indahl et al., 1995, 1997; Stubbs et al., 1998; Solomonow et al., 1998). (p. 144).
“Ligamento-muscular reflexes, therefore, may be inhibitory or excitatory, as may be fit to preserve joint stability; inhibiting muscles that destabilize the joint or increased antagonist co-activation to stabilize the joint” (Solomonow, 2009, p. 145).
Spinal Stabilization and Destabilization
Panjabi (2006) reported:
1. Single trauma or cumulative microtrauma causes subfailure injury of the spinal ligaments and injury to the mechanoreceptors [and nociceptors] 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 [and nociceptors] 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 [and nociceptors], further corrupting the muscle response pattern. (p. 669)
The above stabilization-destabilization scenario is the foundation for why a CSA is clinically indicated for short, intermediate and long-term treatment (biomechanical stabilization) as clinically indicated. It also clearly outlines what the goal of the CSA is, to integrate the bio-neuro-mechanical system to bring the human body to utilize its lowest form of energy for homeostasis or as close to normal as tissue pathology allows.
This is part 2 of a 5-part series where part 1 covers the osseous mechanics of the chiropractic spinal adjustment. This part covered the ligamentous involvement from a supportive and neurological perspective. The topic of part 3 will be spinal biomechanics and their neurological components in addition to how the chiropractic spinal adjustment makes changes bio-neuro-mechanically. Part 4 will be an in-depth contemporary comparative analysis of the chiropractic spinal adjustment vs. physical therapy joint mobilization. The final part will be a concise overview of the chiropractic spinal adjustment.
1. Solomonow, M. (2009). Ligaments: A source of musculoskeletal disorders.Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies,13(2), 136-154.
2. Ziv, I. (n.d.). Ligaments and tendons [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://wings.buffalo.edu/eng/mae/courses/417-517/Orthopaedic%20Biomechanics/Lecture%203u.pdf
3. Hauser, R. A., Dolan, E. E., Phillips, H. J., Newlin, A. C., Moore, R. E., & Woldin, B. A. (2013). Ligament injury and healing: A review of current clinical diagnostics and therapeutics.The Open Rehabilitation Journal,6, 1-20.
4. Solomonow, M. (2006). Sensory–motor control of ligaments and associated neuromuscular disorders.Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology,16(6), 549-567.
5. Studin M., & Owens W. (2016). Chiropractic spinal adjustments and the effects on the neuroendocrine system and the central nervous system connection. The American Chiropractor, 38(1), 46-51.
6. Dougherty, P. (n.d.). Chapter 2: Somatosensory systems. Neuroscience Online. Retrieved from http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/s2/chapter02.html
7. Panjabi, M. M. (2006). A hypothesis of chronic back pain: Ligament subfailure injuries lead to muscle control dysfunction.European Spine Journal,15(5), 668-676.
Chiropractic and Successful Outcomes with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
By: Mark Studin
William J. Owens
A report on the scientific literature
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a preventable and treatable disease that makes it difficult to empty air out of the lungs. This difficulty in emptying air out of the lungs (airflow obstruction) can lead to shortness of breath or feeling tired because you are working harder to breathe. COPD is a term that is used to include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or a combination of both conditions. Asthma is also a disease where it is difficult to empty the air out of the lungs, but asthma is not included in the definition of COPD. It is not uncommon, however for a patient with COPD to also have some degree of asthma. Chronic bronchitis is a condition of increased swelling and mucus (phlegm or sputum) production in the breathing tubes (airways). Airway obstruction occurs in chronic bronchitis because the swelling and extra mucus causes the inside of the breathing tubes to be smaller than normal. The diagnosis of chronic bronchitis is made based on symptoms of a cough that produces mucus or phlegm on most days, for three months, for two or more years (after other causes for the cough have been excluded). Emphysema is a condition that involves damage to the walls of the air sacs (alveoli) of the lung. Normally there are more than 300 million alveoli in the lung. The alveoli are normally stretchy and springy, like little balloons. Like a balloon, it takes effort to blow up normal alveoli; however, it takes no energy to empty the alveoli because they spring back to their original size. In emphysema, the walls of some of the alveoli have been damaged. When this happens, the alveoli lose their stretchiness and trap air. Since it is difficult to push all of the air out of the lungs, the lungs do not empty efficiently and therefore contain more air than normal. This is called air trapping and causes hyperinflation in the lungs. The combination of constantly having extra air in the lungs and the extra effort needed to breathe results in a person feeling short of breath. Airway obstruction occurs in emphysema because the alveoli that normally support the airways open cannot do so during inhalation or exhalation. Without their support, the breathing tubes collapse, causing obstruction to the flow of air. (http://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/copd-intro.pdf)
Wearing, Beaumont, Forbes, Brown and Engler (2016) reported:
Extrapulmonary effects, such as skeletal muscle dysfunction, affect the severity of the disease and provide a potential target for therapeutic intervention. An estimated 18%–36% of people with COPD experience skeletal muscle dysfunction at a level that affects exercise capacity and dyspnea levels, both predictors of mortality in COPD. Because exercise capacity is a measure of the amount of exercise that can be performed before the onset of leg fatigue or exercise-limiting dyspnea, a decrease in capacity has been associated with poorer quality of life and higher hospitalization rates. Nonpharmacologic interventions benefit people with COPD. For example, pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is considered to be a well-developed, multidisciplinary approach to managing many extrapulmonary effects associated with COPD. However, PR has little clinical effect on lung function. Similarly, research into the effect of acupuncture has shown that this modality has little effect on long-term lung function despite helping improve dyspnea levels and exercise tolerance. (pgs. 108-109)
The authors have had long-term experience in treating COPD utilizing a portion of the "Evidence-based behavioral practice“ model in observing results from patients over the past 3 decades.
Evidence-based behavioral practice(EBBP) entails making decisions about how to promote health or provide care by integrating the best available evidence with practitioner expertise and other resources, and with the characteristics, state, needs, values and preferences of those who will be affected. This is done in a manner that is compatible with the environmental and organizational context. Evidence is comprised of research findings derived from the systematic collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation of questions and testing of hypotheses (Evidence-Based Practice, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_practice).
In the observation component of the evidence-based behavioral practice model, the authors have observed COPD patients realize increased tidal volumes, forced vital volume, forced expiratory volume and residual increased volumes performed on a Renaissance Spirometer by Puritan-Bennett in the 1990’s, post chiropractic spinal adjustment. These results (the printouts have since been discarded) were consistent with both acute and chronic emphysema patients with multiple etiologies and were verified both with the spirometer volumes and the patient’s feedback. Due to limited resources (and research inexperience) of the authors in the 1990’s, this information was limited to patients who had similar issues at the local clinical level. Nonetheless, the results were consistent and reproducible, however the was no literature to corroborate or validate these findings at the time.
In contemporary literature, there is now a basis to support the authors previous findings. Wearing, Beaumont, Forbes, Brown and Engler (2016) continued:
This systematic review updates the results from a previous review and is the first to focus on evidence of the effect of administering SMT (spinal manual treatment of the chiropractic spinal adjustment) in conjunction with other interventions in the management of COPD. Improvements in lung function (increases in forced expiratory and forced vital volume; decrease in residual volume) and exercise capacity (increase in 6-minute walking test) were reported in three random clinical trials following a combination of SMT and exercise. While these findings were recorded in pilot and preliminary trials, they represent preliminary evidence that the combination of SMT with exercise may be more beneficial to people with COPD than exercise or SMT alone. Furthermore, the results provide additional information to the review by Heneghan and colleagues; however, the findings of this review contrast with the earlier conclusion that no evidence supported or refuted the use of MT on patients with COPD.
In conclusion, this appears to be the first systematic review to investigate the evidence for administering SMT in conjunction with other modalities, such as exercise, on people with COPD. The exclusion of such combinations may explain the disparity in findings between this review and the review by Heneghan et al., who found no evidence to support or refute the use of MT in the management of COPD. The importance of increasing exercise capacity, even by indirect methods such as increasing thoracic mobility should not be underestimated because exercise capacity is a predictor of mortality in COPD. As pulmonary rehabilitation does not improve lung function, the current findings may have wider implications if repeated in a larger cohort. (pg. 113)
Although Wearing et. Al (2016) acknowledged that this study was very limited in numbers and acknowledged that there could be benefit through co-management with exercise, the results mimicked the findings realized by the authors in the 1990’s. In addition, Wearing et. Al. reported no significant adverse effects of chiropractic care and is consistent with previous reports that chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and 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).
A Chiropractic Adjustment Has a Direct Effect of the Pre-Frontal Cortex of the Brain
Verifying a positive effect of the chiropractic spinal adjustment on reflexes, memory, coordination and decision making
By: Mark Studin
William J. Owens
A report on the scientific literature
For most of the 20th century, based upon results in individual chiropractic offices, the profession’s success was founded on a patient-based model. This model drove utilization at predominantly a “grass roots” level and over the last 10-20 years, research has started to give reasons to why patients not only get out of pain, but executive functions such as decision making, anxiety, managing tasks and being able to focus at a higher level are improving. It is these types of results that have driven many patients to appreciate chiropractic as a “miracle cure” while others, mostly from organized medicine and insurers, who in the past have considered it an "invalid claim” because of the lack of credible evidence despite mounting feedback from patients over the last century. Factually, their arguments had merit on many issues in the past, but as research has been published through the years, those arguments are outdated and incorrect.
"Evidence-based behavioral practice (EBBP) entails making decisions about how to promote health or provide care by integrating the best available evidence with practitioner expertise and other resources, and with the characteristics, state, needs, values and preferences of those who will be affected. This is done in a manner that is compatible with the environmental and organizational context. Evidence is comprised of research findings derived from the systematic collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation of questions and testing of hypotheses" (Evidence-Based Practice, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_practice).
When considering a purely “evidenced-based” approach, it often precludes advances through a doctor’s immediate experiences in “breakthroughs” that has historically saved lives and then set up the research to render the evidence of what doctors have found on an “experiential level.” This is formally termed best medical practice.
“Abest practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a "best" practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. Best practice is considered by some as a business buzzword, used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use" (Best Practice, http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Best_practice).
Sackett, Rosenberg, Gray, Haynes and Richardson (1996) stated,
“Criticism has ranged from evidence based medicine being old hat to it being a dangerous innovation, perpetrated by the arrogant to serve cost cutters and suppress clinical freedom (p. 71)." They go on to comment “Good doctors use both individual clinical expertise and the best available external evidence, and neither alone is enough. Without clinical expertise, practice risks becoming tyrannized by evidence, for even excellent external evidence may be inapplicable to or inappropriate for an individual patient. Without current best evidence, practice risks becoming rapidly out of date, to the detriment of patients" (Sackett et al, 1996, p. 72). The point is that the provider plays a huge role and ultimately is the check and balance of this process. Without the provider, the payor becomes the determining factor in the delivery of healthcare by "tying the doctor's hands" with the limitation of evidence.
They further stated:
“External clinical evidence can inform, but can never replace, individual clinical expertise, and it is this expertise that decides whether the external evidence applies to the individual patient at all and, if so, how it should be integrated into a clinical decision" (Sackett et al, 1996, p. 73). Lastly, they state, “Evidence based medicine is not restricted to randomized trials and meta-analyses. It involves tracking down the best external evidence with which to answer our clinical questions" (Sackett et al, 1996, p. 73). This is often a process that takes years, preventing the final papers from being published in a timely enough fashion to meet the ever-changing advancement of medicine and the technologies that support the current needs of the patients.
When considering executive function at the central (brain) level, based upon contemporary literature, we can now go beyond the “best medical practice” model of purely patient feedback and as Sackett et. Al. suggested, add the evidence as verification. In order to better understand how chiropractic plays a role in executive function, we must start at neural plasticity. According to Leung et. Al (2015) Neural plasticity refers to the capacity of our brain to change in response to internal demand and/or external experience. Burgeoning research has corroborated that the neural plastic changes induced in our brains and behaviors are specific to the experiences. [pg. 1]
Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity or neural plasticity, is an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an individual's life course. The term gained prominence in the latter half of the 20th century, when new research showed that many aspects of the brain can be altered (or are "plastic”) even into adulthood. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity)
This article focuses on the actions and effects of neuroplasticity on the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. According to Lelic et. Al (2016)
The prefrontal cortex is known to play a vital role in SMI and is also responsible for a number of other functions. The prefrontal cortex is known to be a key structure responsible for the performance of what is known as “executive functions.” Executive function is the mechanism by which the brain integrates and coordinates the operations of multiple neural systems to solve problems and achieve goals based on the ever-changing environment around us. Executive function is considered to be a product of the coordinated operation of various neural systems and is essential for achieving any particular goal. The prefrontal cortex is believed to be the main brain structure responsible for enabling this coordination and control. It requires planning a sequence of subtasks to accomplish a goal, focusing attention on relevant information as well as inhibiting irrelevant distractors, being able to switch attention between tasks monitoring memory, initiation of activity, and responding to stimuli. [pg. 7]
Lelic et. Al.’s study resulted in two major findings. Firstly, the study reproduced previous findings of somatosensory evoked potential (SEPs) studies that have shown that chiropractic spinal adjusting of dysfunctional spinal segments alters early sensorimotor integration (SMI) of input from the upper limb. The second major finding of this study was that we were able to show, using dipole source localization, that this change in SMI that occurs after spinal manipulation predominantly happens in the prefrontal cortex. The SEP peak showed multiple neural generators including primary sensory cortex, basal ganglia, thalamus, premotor areas, and primary motor cortex. The frontal N30 peak is therefore thought to reflect early SMI.
The current study adds to previous work by not only confirming that spinal manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment] of dysfunctional joints decreases the N30 SEP peak amplitude but also demonstrating that this decrease occurs predominantly in one of the known neural generators of N30, that is, the prefrontal cortex. This suggests that, at least in part, the mechanisms by which spinal manipulation improves performance are due to a change in function at the prefrontal cortex.
Lelic et. Al (2016) continued,
The prefrontal cortex is known to play a vital role in SMI and is also responsible for a number of other functions. The prefrontal cortex is known to be a key structure responsible for the performance of what is known as “executive functions.” Executive function is considered to be a product of the coordinated operation of various neural systems and is essential for achieving any particular goal. The prefrontal cortex is believed to be the main brain structure responsible for enabling this coordination and control. It requires planning a sequence of subtasks to accomplish a goal, focusing attention on relevant information as well as inhibiting irrelevant distractors, being able to switch attention between tasks, monitoring memory, initiation of activity, and responding to stimuli. A change in prefrontal activity following chiropractic care may therefore explain and/or link some of the varied improvements in neural function previously observed in the literature, such as improved joint position sense error, reaction time, cortical processing, cortical sensorimotor integration, reflex excitability, motor control, and lower limb muscle strength.
To accomplish the coordinated operations of multiple neural systems and structures, the prefrontal cortex must monitor the activities in other cortical and subcortical structures and control and integrate their operations by sending command signals in a so-called “top-down” manner. This is a complex operation, and the importance of this monitoring, integration, and coordination is highlighted in studies where damage to the prefrontal cortex has been shown to impair the ability to create new and adaptive action programs or choose the best among several equally probable alternatives, despite such individuals displaying normal IQs in most psychological tests, having normal long-term memory functions, and exhibiting normal perceptual, motor, and language skills
To accomplish the coordinated operations of multiple neural systems and structures, the prefrontal cortex must monitor the activities in other cortical and subcortical structures and control and integrate their operations by sending command signals in a so-called “top-down” manner. This is a complex operation, and the importance of this monitoring, integration, and coordination is highlighted in studies where damage to the prefrontal cortex has been shown to impair the ability to create new and adaptive action programs or choose the best among several equally probable alternatives, despite such individuals displaying normal IQs in most psychological tests, having normal long-term memory functions, and exhibiting normal perceptual, motor, and language skills .The change in prefrontal cortex as seen in this study therefore suggests that the altered input from dysfunctional joints that leads to altered processing of somatosensory inputs can influence processing of somatosensory information by the prefrontal cortex.
Chiropractic care, by treating the joint dysfunction, appears to change processing by the prefrontal cortex. This suggests that chiropractic care may as well have benefits that exceed simply reducing pain or improving muscle function and may explain some claims regarding this made by chiropractors.
Although the change in N30 due to chiropractic treatment is an important finding, it is not clear how long this finding lasts. To date, some of the authors of this study have shown that the N30 changes on average are present for at least 20–30 minutes after spinal manipulation. For some subjects, the changes were still evident at 30 minutes after spinal manipulation and we have not yet followed up for longer than 30 minutes, due to the length of the study as is.
The literature has clearly suggested that a chiropractic spinal adjustment has a clear and reproducible effect on brain physiology and function and is consistent with reports from Reed, Pickjar, Sozio and Long (2014) and Gay, Robinson, George, Peristen and Bishop (2014) on a chiropractic spinal adjustment effecting brain function. These results, in addition to chiropractic patient’s feedback since 1895, have combined both “best practice” and evidenced based” models and start to explain through science, why people are experiencing so much more than their beck or neck pain resolving.
The Mechanism of the Chiropractic
Part 1 of a 5 Part Series
By: Mark Studin
William J. Owens
Citation: Studin m., Owens W., (2017) The Mechanism of the Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment/Manipulation: Osseous Mechanisms, Part 1 of 5, American Chiropractor 39 (5), pgs. 30, 32, 34, 36-38
A report on the scientific literature
There have been many reports in the literature on chiropractic care and its efficacy. However, the reporting is often “muddled” based upon interchangeable terminology utilized to describe what we do. The etiology of the verbiage being used has apparently been part of a movement to gain acceptance within the healthcare community, but this attempt for a change in view by the healthcare community has cost us. Currently, the scientific community has lumped together manipulation performed by physical therapists or osteopaths with chiropractic spinal adjustments because all three professions perform “hands on” manual therapy to the spine. For example, Martínez-Segura, De-la-LLave-Rincón, Ortega-Santiago, Cleland, and Fernández-de-Las-Peñas (2012) discussed how physical therapists commonly use manual therapy interventions directed at the cervical or thoracic spine, and the effectiveness of cervical and thoracic spine thrust manipulation for the management of patients with mechanical, insidious neck pain. Herein lies the root of the confusion when “manipulation” is utilized as a “one-size-fits-all” category of treatment as different professions have different training and procedures to deliver the manipulation, usually applying different treatment methods and realizing different results and goals.
In addition, as discussed by Sung, Kang, and Pickar (2004), the terms “mobilization,” “manipulation” and “adjustment” also are used interchangeably when describing manual therapy to the spine. Some manipulation and virtually all chiropractic adjusting “…involves a high velocity thrust of small amplitude performed at the limit of available movement. However, mobilization involves repetitive passive movement of varying amplitudes at low velocity” (Sung, Kang, & Picker, 2004, p. 115).
To offset confusion between chiropractic and any other profession that involves the performance of some type of manipulation, for the purpose of clarity, we will be referring to any type of spinal therapy performed by a chiropractor as a chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA) and reserve manipulation for other professions who have not been trained in the delivery of CSA. Until now, the literature has not directly supported the mechanism of the CSA. However, it has supported each component and the supporting literature, herein, will define the neuro-biomechanical process of the CSA and resultant changes.
Components of the Adjustment or Thrust
Both human and animal studies have shown the tri-phasic process of the CSA and the time for the thrust duration of each phase. In addition, the timing at each phase has been shown to be integral in understanding the neurological effect of the CSA. The forces are broken into 3 phases. These are the pre-load force, which takes the tissue close to its paraphysiological limit, the peak force or thrust stage and the resolution stage.
Pickar and Bolton (2012) reported the following:
CSA, referred to in the literature as spinal manual therapy, “…in the cervical region has relatively little pre-load ranging from 0 to 39.5 N. In contrast, the average pre-load forces during [CSA] in the thoracic region (139 ± 46 N, ± SD) and sacroiliac region (mean 88 N ± 78 N) are substantially higher than in the cervical region and are potentially different from each other. From the beginning of the thrust to end of the resolution phase, [CSA] duration varies between 90 and 120 ms. (mean = 102 ms.). The time to peak force during the thrust phase ranges from 30 to 65 ms. (mean = 48 ms.). Peak applied forces range from 99 to 140 N (mean = 118 N, n = 6 treatments). In the same study with [CSA] directed at the thoracic (T4) region and applied to three different patients by the same practitioner, the mean (SD) time to peak force was 150 ± 77 ms. and mean peak force reached 399 ± 119 N. During the resolution phase, force returned to pre-[CSA] levels over durations up to two times longer than that of the thrust phase. When [CSA] was applied to the sacroiliac joint, mean applied peak forces reached 328 ± 78 N, with the thrust and resolution phases having similar durations (∼100ms.). The peak force during manipulation of the lumbar spine measured by Triano and Schultz (1997) tended to be higher than during the thoracic or sacroiliac manipulation measured by Herzog et al. (1994) and the force–time profiles resembled half-sine waves with the time to and from peak taking approximately 200 ms. Peak impulse forces during thoracic manipulation approximated the >400 N peak impulse force measured by Triano and Schultz (1997). (p. 786)
Pickar and Bolton (2012) reported that the physical characteristics of an CSA may vary based upon the technique being used and the individual practitioner. However, the above scenario is an illustration and guide to the time and force for of a CSA.
Zygapophysial (Z) joints
Cramer et al. (2002) explained the following:
One component of spinal dysfunction treated by chiropractors has been described as the development of adhesions in the zygapophysial (Z) joints after hypomobility. This hypomobility may be the result of injury, inactivity, or repetitive asymmetrical movements…one beneficial effect of spinal manipulation may be the “breaking up” of putative fibrous adhesions that develop in hypomobile or “fixed” Z joints. Spinal adjusting of the lumbar region is thought to separate or gap the articular surfaces of the Z joints. Theoretically, gapping breaks up adhesions, thus helping the motion segment reestablish a physiologic range of motion. (p. 2459)
Control subject [left] before the CSA and after [right] a CSA. The red arrows depict the increase in the Z-Joint
Cramer et al. (2002) found the following:
…significant differences between several groups in this study, with the group that received chiropractic adjustments and remained in the side-posture position showing the greatest increase in gapping. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that chiropractic adjusting gaps the Z joints…The Z joints were found gap during side-posture positioning, although not as much as during side-posture adjusting…The flexion that occurs during the side-posture position and side-posture spinal adjustment may allow for greater gapping during axial rotation and may account for the difference in results between the studies. However, because both the side-posture positioning group and the group that had side-posture adjusting followed by continued side-posture positioning received equal amounts of flexion, the thrust given during the chiropractic procedure had the effect of increasing the gapping of the Z joints. (p. 2464)
The average difference between the control subjects…and the subjects that received a chiropractic adjustment and remained in side-posture position was 1.33 mm…a difference of 0.71 mm was found between the side-posture group…and the group that received an adjustment and remained in the side-posture position…It will be recalled that the Z joints are very small [and this is a considerable gap in a joint as small as the Z joint]…Another important consideration is that the term “residual,” or “left-over” gapping, could be applied to the gapping measured in the adjustment group because it can be logically assumed that the Z joints gap a greater distance during the forceful loading of the manipulative procedure than recorded in this study. The tissues of the spine presumably bring the articular surfaces back toward the pre-adjustment (closed) position as the patient resumes a more typical side-posture position after the thrust of a manipulation. This “residual” gapping is what was seen during the 15- to 20-minute MRI scan taken immediately after the adjustment. (2464-2565)
What makes this significant is the residual time that occurs after the CSA. During this period, and the time that follows is the foundation for biomechanical changes in the adjacent discs and ancillary connective tissue attachments that will be discussed in the next article in the series. However, this is part of the foundation for bio-neuro-mechanical changes to the spine secondary to the CSA.
Evans (2002) reported the following:
…on flexion of the lumbar spine, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with it. On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying "lesion" under the capsule: a meniscoid entrapment. A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent impaction of the meniscoid. The patient would tend to be more comfortable with the spine maintained in a flexed position, because this will disengage the meniscoid. 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.
The presence of fibro-adipose meniscoids in the cervical zygapophyseal joints suggests that a similar phenomenon might occur, but in the neck the precipitating movement would be excessive rotation. The clinical features of cervical meniscoid entrapment would be those of an acute torticollis in which attempted derotation would cause impaction and buckling of the entrapped meniscoid and painful capsular strain. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent impaction of the meniscoid by keeping the neck in a rotated position. Under these circumstances the muscle spasm would not be the primary cause of torticollis but a secondary reaction to the entrapment of the meniscoid.
An HVLAT manipulation, involving gapping of the zygapophyseal joint reduces the impaction and opens the joint, so encouraging the meniscoid lo return to its normal anatomical position in the joint cavity. This ceases the distension of the joint capsule, thus reducing pain. (p. 252-253)
Evans (2002) also explained the following:
Zygapophyseal joint gapping induced during an HVLAT manipulation would further stretch the highly innervated joint capsule, leading to a "protective" reflex muscular contraction, as shown in electromyographic studies. The most important characteristic of a manipulative procedure that will provide joint gapping, before the induction of protective reflex muscular contraction, would be high velocity…the thrusting phase of an HVLAT manipulation required 91 ± 20 ms. to develop the peak force. If this period is compared with the time delay between the onset of the thrusting force and the onset of electromyographic activity, which ranges from 50 to 200 ms., we can see that a force of sufficient magnitude to gap the joint can be applied in a shorter time than that required for the initiation of a mechanoreceptor-mediated muscular reflex. Furthermore, once the muscle is activated (i.e. there is an electromyographic signal), it will take approximately another 40 to 100 ms until the onset of muscular force. It therefore seems unlikely that there are substantial muscular forces resisting the thrusting phase of HVLAT manipulation. Thus, HVLAT manipulation would again appear to be the treatment of choice for a meniscoid entrapment.
The cavitation event may not be a prerequisite for a "successful" HVLAT manipulation in the case of a meniscoid entrapment and may be an incidental side effect of high-velocity zygapophyseal joint gapping (which would be a prerequisite for success). Audible indication of successful joint gapping may, however, be regarded as desirable in itself as a clinical measure of "success." A clinician's perception of the occurrence of cavitation during an HVLAT manipulation has been shown to be very accurate and would therefore be a reliable measure of a '"successful" joint gapping. (p. 253-254)
Meniscoid entrapment. A) On flexion, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with It. B) On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns upward to its neutral position, hut 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. C) CSA (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 (D) Realignment of the joint.
This first part of a 5-part series covers the osseous mechanics of what the chiropractic spinal adjustment is comprised of. Part 2 will cover the ligamentous involvement from a supportive and neurological perspective. The topic of part 3 will be spinal biomechanics and its neurological components. Part 4 will be an in-depth contemporary comparative analysis of the chiropractic spinal adjustment vs. physical therapy joint mobilization. The final part will be a concise overview of the chiropractic spinal adjustment.
1. Martínez-Segura, R., De-la-LLave-Rincón, A. I., Ortega-Santiago, R., Cleland J. A., Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C. (2012). Immediate changes in widespread pressure pain sensitivity, neck pain, and cervical range of motion after cervical or thoracic thrust manipulation in patients with bilateral chronic mechanical neck pain: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Orthopedics & Sports Physical Therapy, 42(9), 806-814.
2. Sung, P. S., Kang, Y. M., & Pickar, J. G. (2004). Effect of spinal manipulation duration on low threshold mechanoreceptors in lumbar paraspinal muscles: A preliminary report. Spine, 30(1), 115-122.
3. Pickar, J. G., & Bolton, P. S. (2012). Spinal manipulative therapy and somatosensory activation.Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology,22(5), 785-794.
4. Cramer, G. D., Gregerson, D. M., Knudsen, J. T., Hubbard, B. B., Ustas, L. M., & Cantu, J. A. (2002). The effects of side-posture positioning and spinal adjusting on the lumbar Z joints: A randomized controlled trial with sixty-four subjects.Spine,27(22), 2459-2466.
5. Cramer, G. D., Henderson, C. N., Little, J. W. Daley, C., & Grieve, T.J. (2010). Zygapophyseal joint adhesions after induced hypombility. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 33(7), 508-518.
6. 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.
7. Owens, Jr., E. F., Hosek, R. S., Sullivan, S. G. B., Russell, B. S., Mullin, L. E., & Dever, L. L. (2016). Establishing force and speed training targets for lumbar spine high-velocity, low-amplitude chiropractic adjustments. The Journal of Chiropractic Education, 30(1), 7-13.
8. Nougarou, F., Dugas, C., Deslauriers, C., Pagé, I., & Descarreaux, M. (2013). Physiological responses to spinal manipulation therapy: Investigation of the relationship between electromyographic responses and peak force.Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics,36(9), 557-563.
9. Solomonow, M. (2009). Ligaments: A source of musculoskeletal disorders.Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies,13(2), 136-154.
10. 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.
Chiropractic Care is More Effective in Lowering Disability than Medical Care for Acute and Sub-Acute Low Back Pain
By Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
A report on the scientific literature
By any standard, back pain is one of the most prevalent disabilities plaguing our population. According to Block, 2014, over 100 million Americans experience chronic pain with common painful conditions including back pain, neck pain, headaches/migraines, and arthritis, in addition to other painful conditions such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, etc... In a large study in 2010, 30.7% of over 27,000 U.S. respondents reported an experience of chronic, recurrent pain of at least a 6-month duration. Half of the respondents with chronic pain noted daily symptoms, with 32% characterizing their pain as severe (≥7 on a scale ranging from 0 to 10). Chronic pain has a broad impact on emotional well-being and health-related quality of life, sleep quality, and social/recreational function. (pg. 1)
According to Schneider et al., 2015 “low back pain is among the most common medical elements an important public health issue. Approximately 50% of the United States working – age adults experience low back pain each year with a quarter of US adults reported in episode back pain in the previous three months. Back pain is the most common cause of disability for persons younger than 45 years old and one of the most common reasons for office visits to primary care physicians in the United States as well as Europe and Australia.” (pg. 2009)
In chiropractic, although chiropractic’s scope is significantly beyond back pain, based upon the sheer volume of low back pain sufferers, there simply aren’t enough chiropractors to manage this “epidemic sized” condition. In addition, chiropractors as a profession do not want to be labeled as solely “low back pain doctors.” Although the authors firmly agree, we also must acknowledge while treating mechanical spine pain (no fracture, tumor or infection) that the formal health care system has fallen short and in its effort, has contributed to the opiate epidemic. Healthcare in the United States has had a myopic focus on “anatomical” sources of spine pain such as herniated disc and degenerative disc disease while ignoring the impact that faulty biomechanics have on spine pain and disability. When it comes to the biomechanics of the spine, it is the responsibility of the chiropractic profession, based upon training and outcomes to lead the nation in its diagnosis, management and treatment. When we consider both anatomical and biomechanical spine conditions are significant contributors to the spine pain and disability epidemic in the United States, we must understand its full impact and the standard healthcare system’s (allopathic) inability to manage the biomechanical side.
Block, 2014 continued “In addition to the pervasive personal suffering associated with this disease, chronic pain (author’s note: where low back pain is one of the most significant contributors) has a substantial negative financial impact on the economy. Direct office visits, diagnostic testing, hospital care, and pharmacy costs are only a portion of the picture, with combined medical and pharmacy costs averaging $5,000 annually per individual. Chronic pain results in a significant economic burden on the healthcare system, with estimated costs ranging from $560 to $635 billion 2010 dollars, more than the annual cost of other priority health conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Moreover, the estimated annual costs of the workplace impact of pain range from $299 to $335 billion from absenteeism and reduced productivity.” (pgs. 1-2) These statistics help us to understand that “management” of spine pain is a critical component of cost reduction since the costliest portion of healthcare services is when a patient enters the system. Continued mismanagement of mechanical spine pain causes patients to move in and out of disability status. That reentry is what drives up cost, chiropractic is the 3rd largest health profession in the United States and the largest with the education to lead the diagnosis and management of mechanical spine pain.
When we compare who is better educated to manage mechanical back pain cases, we also must conclude as a result, who is better educated to successfully treat those cases based upon outcomes. In this comparison, we will consider the education of chiropractic vs. traditional musculoskeletal education and competency as well as treatment outcomes.
In a recent article written by Humphreys, Sulkowski, McIntyre, Kasiban, and Patrick (2007), they stated, “In the United States, approximately 10% to 25% of all visits to primary care medical doctors are for MSK [musculoskeletal] complaints, making it one of the most common reasons for consulting a physician...Specifically, it has been estimated that less than 5% of the undergraduate and graduate medical curriculum in the United States and 2.26% in Canadian medical schools is devoted to MSK medicine” (p. 44).
Musculoskeletal complaints have a major impact on the healthcare system and although many patients believe that traditional providers are highly trained, recent publications relating to basic competency have shown otherwise. For example, the authors cited another study stating, Humphreys et al., 2007 continues by stating, “A study by Childs et alon the physical therapists’ knowledge in managing MSK conditions found that only 21% of students working on their master’s degree in physical therapy and 25% of students working on their doctorate degree in physical therapy achieved a passing mark on the BCE [Basic Competency Evaluation]” (p. 45).
The authors continued by reporting, “The objective of this study was to examine the cognitive (knowledge) competency of final-year chiropractic students in MSK [musculoskeletal] medicine" (p. 45). "The typical chiropractic curriculum consists of 4,800 hours of education composed of courses in the biological sciences (i.e., anatomy, embryology, histology, microbiology, pathology, laboratory diagnosis, biochemistry, nutrition, and psychology), chiropractic sciences, and clinical sciences (i.e., clinical diagnosis, neurodiagnostic, ortho-rheumatology, radiology, and psychology). As the diagnosis, treatment, and management of MSK disorders are the primary focus of the undergraduate curriculum as well as future clinical practice, it seems logical that chiropractic graduates should possess competence in basic MSK medicine” (Humphreys et al., 2007, p. 45).
The following results were published in this paper for the Basic Competency Examination and various professions that are in the front line of the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. In Table 2 on page 47, the following results were shown when the passing score was established at 73% or greater:
Recent medical graduates (18%), medical students, residents, and staff physicians (20.7%), osteopathic students (29.6%) physical therapy (MSc level, 21%), physical therapy (doctorate level, 26%), chiropractic students (51.5%).
In Table 2 on page 47, the following results were show when the passing score was established at 70% or greater.
Recent medical graduates (22%), medical students, residents, and staff physicians (NA), osteopathic students (33%) physical therapy (MSc level, NA), physical therapy (doctorate level, NA), chiropractic students (64.7%).
According to Frank Zolli DC, former Dean at the University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic, “Fundamental to the training of doctors of chiropractic is 4,820 hours (compared to 3,398 for physical therapy and 4,670 to medicine) and students 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. It is so important to practice 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. To qualify for licensure, graduates of chiropractic programs must pass a series of examinations administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) in 4 separate parts including clinical evaluations. It is therefore mandatory for a chiropractor to know the structure and function of the human body, the study of neuromuscular and biomechanics is weaved throughout the fabric of chiropractic education.” As a result, the doctor of chiropractic has an expertise in the diagnosis and management of biomechanical musculoskeletal disorders that the traditional health care system is lacking. Chiropractic offers significant insight where traditional health care has no answers.
When it comes to direct influence of the chiropractic adjustment on spine pain patients, a 2005 study by DeVocht, Pickar, & Wilder concluded through objective electrodiagnostic studies (neurological testing) that 87% of chiropractic patients exhibited decreased muscle spasms. This study validates the reasoning behind why people with severe muscle spasms in the low back respond well to chiropractic care which in turn is shown to prevent future problems and disabilities. It also dictates that care should not be delayed or ignored due to a risk of complications. This study renders evidence that chiropractic spinal adjusting provides a direct nervous system and physiologic response to the human body.
In a recently published case study and literature review in the New England Journal of Medicine, Deyo and Mirza (2016) had published a case study and literature review on the diagnosis and treatment of lumbar disc herniation with sciatica. What is useful in this publication is the review of the literature in basic, easy to use format highlighting the most common treatments associated in lumbar disc herniation with sciatica.
Regarding the chiropractic adjustment, the authors stated “A randomized trial of chiropractic manipulation for sub-acute or chronic “back-related leg pain” (without confirmation of nerve-root compression on MRI) showed that manipulation [author’s note: Chiropractic spinal adjustment] was more effective than home exercise with respect to pain relief at 12 weeks (by a mean 1-point decrease on a pain-intensity scale on which scores ranged from 0 to 10, with higher scores indicating greater severity of pain) but not at 1 year. This is important since early intervention of chiropractic care will reduce early dependency on pain medication. In addition, a randomized trial involving patients who had acute sciatica with MRI-confirmed disk protrusion showed that at 6 months, significantly more patients who underwent chiropractic manipulation had an absence of pain than did those who underwent sham manipulation (55% vs. 20%). Neurologic complications in the lumbar spine, including worsened disk herniation or the cauda equina syndrome, have been reported anecdotally, but they appear to be extremely rare.” (pg 1768)
In relationship to counseling versus supervised exercise, the authors reported,“A systematic review of five randomized trials showed that patients who participated in supervised exercise had greater short-term pain relief than patients who received counseling alone, but this reduction in pain was small and these patients did not have a long-term benefit with respect to reduced pain or disability.” (pg. 1768)
Concerning oral steroids, the paper reported, “Randomized trials show no significant advantage of systemic glucocorticoid (steroid) therapy over placebo with respect to pain relief or reduced rates of subsequent surgical intervention, and they show little, if any, advantage with respect to improvement in physical function.” (pg. 1767)
The authors commented on opioid medication by stating,“Data from randomized trials to support the use of opioids in patients with sciatica are lacking. Systematic reviews suggest that opioids have slight short-term benefits with respect to reduced back pain. Convincing evidence of benefits of long-term use is lacking, and there is growing concern regarding serious long-term adverse effects such as fractures and opioid overdose and abuse.” (pg. 1767)
Focusing on spinal injection therapy the paper continues by reporting, “A systematic review showed that patients with radiculopathy who received epidural glucocorticoid injections had slightly better pain relief (by 7.5 points on a 100-point scale) and functional improvement at 2 weeks than patients who received placebo. There were no significant advantages at later follow-up and no effect on long-term rates of surgery.” (pg. 1768)
This report serves as a nice general guideline for the primary care [conservative] management of lumbar disc herniation with sciatica. We see that in addition to any anatomical correction there is a positive response to biomechanical interventions for which the properly trained and credentialed chiropractor is an important provider.
Cifuentes et al., 2011 stated, “Given that chiropractors are proponents of health maintenance care, we hypothesize that patients with work-related LBP [low back pain] who are treated by chiropractors would have a lower risk of recurrent disability because this specific approach would be used.Conversely, similar patients treated by other providers would have higher recurrence rates because the general approach did not include maintaining health, which is a key component to prevent recurrence” (Cifuentes, Willetts, & Wasiak, 2011, p. 396).
This research is unique and comprehensive in that it tracked injured workers’ compensation patients in multiple states and it reviewed claims dated between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2006 including 894 cases out of a pool of 11,420 claims of non-specific low back pain cases. (The states were chosen because the patients had the ability to select their doctors on their own and were not mandated a provider.)
Relating to the results, the authors report, “In our study, after controlling for demographics and severity indicators, the likelihood of recurrent disability due to LBP for recipients of services during the health maintenance care period by all other provider groups was consistently worse when compared with recipients of health maintenance care by chiropractors. Care from chiropractors during the disability episode (“curative”), during the health maintenance period (main exposure variable, “preventative”), and the combination of both (curative and preventive) was associated with lower disability recurrence HRs” (p. 403). This article validates chiropractic's role in the prevention of the recurrence of back pain in patients with chronic spine disorders.
When analyzing why, the reasons are evident and based upon the literature. A chiropractic spinal adjustment reduces verifiable bio-neuro-mechanical failures (commonly known as vertebral subluxation in our profession) at the spinal level. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do not and there is no “spontaneous recovery,” only less pain with the underlying biomechanical failures persisting awaiting Wollf’s law to adversely remodel the spine leading to certain increased permanent disability over time. Therefore, if “literature based outcomes” “ruled the day” (as they should in a reasonable world void of politics and financial interest) at the legislative and reimbursement levels, then we would be a healthier society and spend far less money while avoiding unnecessary side effects and increasing the potential for significantly greater disabilities in the future.
CASE REPORT: Conservative care and axial distraction therapy for the management of cervical and lumbar disc herniations and ligament laxity post motor vehicle collision.
By Josh Johnston, DC
Title: Conservative care and axial distraction therapy for the management of cervical and lumbar disc herniations and ligament laxity post motor vehicle collision.
Abstract: This middle-aged female was injured in a vehicle collision causing her to sustain disc and additional ligament injuries in the cervical and lumbar spine. Diagnostic studies included physical examination, orthopedic and neurological testing, lumbar MRI, multiple cervical MRI’s, CRMA with motion cervical radiographs and EMG studies. Typically, conservative care is initiated prior to interventional procedures, and this case study seeks to explore the usage of passive therapy for mechanical spine pain and noted anatomic disc lesions after failure of interventional procedures. She reported both short term and long term success regarding pain reduction along with improvement in her activities of daily living after initiating conservative care, and continued to report further reductions in pain with periodic pain management using conservative care.
Key Words: neck pain, low back pain, paresthesia, disc herniation, spinal cord indentation, CRMA, axial distraction therapy, DRX9000, spinal manipulative therapy, motor vehicle collision
Key: MRI (magnetic resonance imaging); EMG (electromyography study); CRMA (computerized radiographic mensuration analysis); CT (computerized topography); PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder); PRN (as needed); VAS (visual analog scale); HVLA (high velocity low amplitude).
Introduction: The 49-year-old married female (Spanish speaking patient) reported that on March 4th, 2014 she was the seat-belted driver of a truck that was struck by a much larger fuel truck changing lines, hitting her vehicle at the front passenger side (far side, side impact). The force of the impact caused her truck to be lifted up and the right wheel popped off. Her head hit the window after impact and the spinal pain and complaints started approximately 24 hours later. Two days after the crash she went to the emergency department. Occupant pictures were taken describing an out of position occupant injury. She did not report any additional significant trauma after the collision.
Prior to her evaluation at our clinic, she utilized multiple providers for diagnosis and treatment over the course of 11 months. She went to the emergency department, utilized 3 pain management medical doctors, neuropsychologist and a cognitive rehabilitation therapist. Imaging included radiographs and MRI of the right shoulder revealing rotator cuff tear; radiographs of the lumbar and thoracic spine, and left hand; CT of the head and cervical spine were performed; MRI cervical (3) and lumbar spine. Medications prescribed included Fentanyl, Percocet, Naprosyn, Cyclobenzaprine, Norco, Hydrocodone-acetaminophen, Soma, and Carisoprodol. Physical therapy was provided for spinal injuries and she did not respond to treatment. The neurosurgeon recommended epidural steroid injections and facet blocks. Cervical nerve blocks and cervical trigger point injections, cervical and lumbar epidural steroid injections (ESI), lateral epicondyle steroid injections were performed, none of which were palliative. Post-concussion disorder and PTSD with major depressive disorder were diagnosed.
On February 12th, 2015, she presented to our office with neck pain (average 6/10 VAS) that affected her vision, with paresthesia’s in both upper extremities radiating to the hands with numbness. She had low back pain (average 6/10 VAS), and she additionally reported paresthesia at the plantar surface of feet bilaterally. She had left elbow pain, right shoulder pain, knee pain, headaches and “anxiety” along with anterior sternal pain.
Her injuries were causing significant problems with her activities of daily living. Summarily she had increased pain with lifting, increased pain and restricted movement with bending, walking and carrying. She had been unable to perform any significant physical activity from the time of the crash in March 2014 until March 2015. Her right hand was always hurting and her forearms. She was not able to clean windows or do laundry, difficulty using stairs, problems with mopping, ironing and cleaning. She had to limit her walking and jogging primarily due to neck pain and right arm pain. She was not able to sit for long periods of time and sleeping was disrupted due to numbness in her hands. She was only able to walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes before having to stop due to pain, prior to the crash she would exercise for an hour.
Prior History: No significant prior musculoskeletal or contributory medical history was reported.
Clinical Findings (2/12/15): She had a height of 5’2”, measured weight of 127 lbs.
Visual analysis of the cervical spine revealed pain in multiple ranges of motion including flexion, extension, bilateral rotation and bilateral side bending. On extension pain was noted in the upper back, on rotation pain was noted in the posterior neck, and on lateral flexion pain was noted contralaterally.
Visual analysis of the lumbar spine revealed pain in the low back on all active ranges of motion, including flexion, extension and side bending, pain primarily at L5/S1.
Dual inclinometer testing was ordered based on visual active range of motion limitations with pain.
Sensory testing was performed of the extremities, C5-T1 and L4-S1. No neurological deficits other than right sided C5 hypoesthesia.
Foraminal compression test produced pain in the cervical spine. Foraminal distraction test caused an increase in pain in the neck. Jackson’s test on the right produced pain bilaterally in the neck. Straight leg raise bilaterally produced low back pain, double Straight leg raise produce pain at L5/S1 at 30 degrees.
Muscle testing of the upper extremities was tested at a 5/5 with the exception of deltoid bilaterally tested at a 4/5. The patient’s deep tendon reflexes of the upper and lower extremities were tested including Triceps, Biceps, Brachioradialis, Patella, Achilles: all were tested at 2+ bilaterally, equal and reactive. No evidence of clonus of the feet and Hoffman’s test was unremarkable.
C3-C5 right sided segmental dysfunction was noted on palpation. T5-T12 spinous process tenderness on palpation. Low back pain on palpation, particularly L5/S1.
I reviewed the cervical MRI images taken May 2014 with the following conclusions (images attached):
Fig. 1 (A) T2 Axial C5/6, 2 months post injury Fig. 1 (B) Sag T2 C5/6
I reviewed cervical MRI images taken September 17th, 2014 approximately 6-months post injury, and rendered the following conclusions:
I reviewed the cervical MRI dated October 24th, 2015 (images attached):
Fig. 2 (A) 3D Axial C4/5, 19 months post injury Fig. 2 (B) Sag T2 C4/5
IMPRESSIONS: C4/5 herniation noted on 10/24/15 was not noted on prior images. The patient reported no additional injury or symptoms between MRI studies, so it is postulated that initial slices revealed a false negative; or due to the severity of abnormal cervical biomechanics, it is possible that the C4/5 disc herniated between the pre/post MRI’s with no significant increase in symptomatology. There was improvement at C5/6 related to disc abnormality and cord involvement (see below).
Fig. 3 (A) 3D Axial C5/6, 19 months post injury Fig. 3 (B) Sag T2 C5/6, 19 months post injury
Functional Radiographic Analysis (Computerized Radiograph Mensuration Analysis):
The cervical flexion/extension images were digitized February 2016 and interpreted by myself and Robert Peyster MD, CAQ Neuroradiology, revealing a loss of Angular Motion Segment Integrity at intersegment C6/C7 measured at 19.7 degrees (maximum allowed 11 degrees), indicating a 25% whole person impairment according to the AMA Evaluation of Permanent Impairment Guidelines 5th edition1. CRMA provided from Spine Metrics, independent analysis.
Evidence of significant ligament injury causing functional subfailure was measured at C3/4 at 10.4 degrees and at C4/5 measuring 10.9 degrees regarding angular motion. Abnormal paradoxical translation motion measured at C6/7 and C7/T1.
Initial Max 4 months later % Improvement
Cervical Extension 44 42 -5%
Flexion 40 62 55%
Cervical Left 25 41 64%
Lateral flexion Right 12 26 117%
Cervical Left 46 59 28%
Rotation Right 43 73 70%
Conservative treatment rendered: A neurosurgical referral was made for assessment and surgical options. Conservative care was initiated despite failure of other medical procedures since there is “further evidence that chiropractic is an effective treatment for chronic whiplash symptoms”2-3. The patient was placed on an initial care plan of 2-3x/week for 5 months, with a gap in passive care for 1 month.
Prior to being placed at maximum medical improvement she had persistent low back symptoms, continued tingling in the fingertips and occasional neck pain at a 4/10, with her upper extremity paresthesia’s improved 50%. She continued with pain management chiropractic care after MMI, approximately 1 visit every 3-4 weeks with axial distraction to the cervical and lumbar spine, chiropractic adjustments as needed (PRN). 2 years/9 months post collision, and 1 year/9 months after initiating conservative care at our clinic, she reports only slight (1-2/10 VAS) spinal complaints with her primary concern being a torn rotator cuff injury from the crash that still requires surgical intervention. After initiating care at our clinic, no other interventional procedures were performed, although medication usage persisted. Due to improvement in symptoms and functional status, spinal surgery was not considered. She still utilizes Aleve PRN, 1-2 tablets. No significant active spinal rehabilitation was utilized. The patient was given at home active care consisting only of cervical and lumbar stretches, walking, and ice to affected areas.
Competing Interest: There are no competing interests in the writing of this case report.
De-Identification: All of the patient’s data has been removed from this case.