Chiropractic Co-Management of Pre & Post-Spine Surgical Cases


By: Matt Erickson DC, FSBT


Ashraf Ragab, MD, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon



Reference: Erickson M., Studin M., Ragag A. (2019) Chiropractic Co-Management of Pre and Post-Surgical Cases, American Chiropractor 41(9), 34, 36,38-40


A report on the scientific literature




When a patient presents in a chiropractic office and has clinical signs of either radiculopathy (nerve root compression) at the neural canal or central canal regions or any myelopathic findings (cord compression with ensuing neurological deficit distal to the level of the lesion), immediate referral for an MRI should be considered. Based upon your clinical findings, triage then ensues as a result of creating a clinically driven diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. In a smaller percentage of cases, it will be discovered that the patient has a condition that requires a referral to a spine surgeon or a pain management provider. Regardless of where the patient is directed, having the patient fully worked up (examination, x-rays and advanced imaging) before the referral takes place is an important aspect of what the Doctor of Chiropractic can and should do and is within the lawful scope of practice within all 50 states and the United States territories.


Among those patients referred to the spine surgeon, some will not require or be a candidate for surgery. This is an area where a Doctor of Chiropractic especially with post-graduate training in Primary Spine Care and spinal biomechanical engineering, can be a big help to the surgeon by ensuring that a higher portion of the referred patients presents with the condition that likely requires the surgeon’s services. By triaging those patients who more likely needs the spine surgeon or pain management doctor’s services, it allows the specialist to save time on screening patients in the clinic who do not need their services and instead, it allows them to spend more time performing medically necessary spine-related procedures which allows patients to be taken care of more efficiently.


In the event a patient does not require surgery, unless there is a contraindication to correcting a patient’s neuro-musculo-biomechanical failure leading to structural imbalance, the Doctor of Chiropractic can co-manage the patient with the pain management provider. For the pain management provider, they may recommend various pain management procedures like a spinal epidural injection, a medial branch block or a facet injection. And given that pain management providers don’t focus on spinal biomechanics, but the Doctor of Chiropractic does, for most patients, this collaborative approach is ideal for better patient outcomes.


Surgical Considerations


In patients who do require surgery, the treatment plan can be as simple as the referral to the spine surgeon. This however brings the question, “What is the Doctor of Chiropractic’s role in managing patients before and after surgery?”


In some cases, immediate surgery may be required. This would be the case where the patient has a spinal cord injury like myelomalacia-which is regarded as softening of the spinal cord due to damaged neural tissue that fills in with a glial scar.   A glial scar, according to Silver and Miller (2004, February) “consists predominately of reactive astrocytes [star-shaped glial cells-cells without neurons, in the brain or spinal cord] and proteoglycans [molecules made of sugar and proteins]” (p. 146). Further, myelomalacia forms with pressure on the spinal cord which may be due to biomechanical failure and ensuing cord pressure in post-trauma cases. Immediate surgery may also be required with a disc extrusion (a type of disc herniation) which presents with myelopathic findings (ensuing neurological deficit distal to the site of the spinal cord lesion following trauma) and in patients with an advanced nerve root compression leading to pain, numbness, tingling and weakness into the upper or lower extremity at the level the nerve root has been compressed.


In other patients however, while surgery may be indicated, the Doctor of Chiropractic can work to improve the patient’s biomechanical balance before surgical intervention. This is another area a Primary Spine Care trained Doctor of Chiropractic has the additional post-graduate training to co-manage this type of case. Regardless, these considerations must be coordinated with the spine surgeon if surgery is required. Sagittally balancing the spine for better patient surgical outcomesas reported by Makhni, Shillingfor, Latatta Hyun and Kim (2018), “Adult spinal deformity with sagittal imbalance is associated with significant pain, disability, as well as directly and negatively influence health-related quality of life scores. The spine surgeon has to understand the whole global and regional alignment changes after sagittal imbalance to address the multiplanar deformity. Restoration of global alignment and minimization of complications through various surgical options can successfully improve the pain and function of spinal deformity patients” (pp. 176-177).


Importance of Sagittal Balance


Sagittally balancing the lumbar spine is further supported in an article published on related to lectures on the outcomes of lumbar spine surgery about sagittal balance, Hu (2016, para 3) reported, “Surgical outcomes for spine surgery are improved when spinal, pelvic and hip alignment is considered in both degenerate and deformity cases, and how we better understand these will help us better improve outcomes for our patients” (


Hu (2016) also reported, “Sagittal imbalance in a patient can negatively affect the outcomes of a surgical procedure. But, how extensive the surgery required is to correct the imbalance must be carefully considered for the individual patient” (para. 4). r. LeHuec (2016) added, “Sagittal balance is an active phenomenon for patients. “The best course of action is to strive to achieve sagittal balance in patients” (para. 8).



In a study by Tang, Scheer, Smith, Deviren, Bess, Hart, Lafage, Shaffrey, Schwab and Ames (2015) regarding the thoracolumbar spine sagittal balance, the authors concluded, “Our findings demonstrate that, similar to the thoracolumbar spine, the severity of disability increase with positive sagittal malalignment following surgical reconstruction” (p. S21).


Finally, in an article by Yeh, Lee, Chen, Yu, Liu, Peng, Wang, and Wu, (2018) they concluded, “The results of this study support previous findings that functional outcomes are closely associated with sagittal radiographic parameters in the patients with the degenerative thoracolumbar spinal disease who received long-segment fusion. The achievement of global and regional sagittal alignment balance is a crucial factor for improved postoperative functional outcomes” (p. 1361).


Post-Surgical Management

According to a publication titled “A Detailed Guide to Your Surgery and The Recovery Process by the Johns Hopkins Spine Service (n.d., p. 16), “Walking is the best activity you can do for the first 6 weeks after surgery. Further, there will be “restrictions for the first 6 weeks after surgery,” the patient should “avoid twisting and bending” and avoid lifting, pushing or pulling objects greater than 5 lbs” (


From the Johns Hopkins publication (n.d.), patients are advised to call the surgeon’s office to make a 6-week follow-up appointment. At that appointment, x-rays will be performed to evaluate how the surgical area is healing. If everything checks out, “patients may be given a handout of lower back exercises to begin at home.” Patients may also be provided a prescription for outpatient physical therapy, but that is dependent upon the patient’s recovery (p. 24).


When physical therapy begins, the goal is to gradually improve strength, flexibility and endurance. The patient may also receive help with activities of daily living like gate training (learning how to walk properly again). However, while beneficial, physical therapy is limited in that a physical therapist does not focus diagnosing and correcting the spinal biomechanics. Further, a physical therapist is not licensed to manage the patients on a physician level. This is where the Doctor of Chiropractic is needed as part of the long-term recovery solution.


Following the initial 6-week evaluation, according to Hayeri and Tehranzadeh (2009, para. 21), “Evaluation of the postoperative spine usually begins with conventional radiographs in AP and lateral projections. It usually takes 6 to 9 months for a solid bone fusion to be established radiographically.”  Hayeri and Tehranzadeh (2009, para. 20) also reported, “Postoperative imaging plays an important role in the assessment of fusion and bone formation. It is also helpful to detect instrument failure and other suspected complications. It is necessary to compare current images with previous studies to identify any subtle changes and disease progression” (


Hayeri and Tehranzadeh (2009) added, Currently, computed tomography (CT) with multiplanar reconstruction (MPR) is considered the modality of choice for imaging bony details and assessing osseous formation and hardware position despite artifact formation.” (para. 22).



It is important to understand, patients don’t need to wait 6-9 months to start treatment with the Doctor of Chiropractic. About 6 weeks following surgery, if the patient is healed enough to begin physical therapy, the patient should be able to tolerate gentle mechanical corrections above and below the level of the surgical fusion. However, the patient will need to first be cleared to do so by the surgeon. Doing this can help in the patient’s recovery process and prepare the patients spine for a more comprehensive correction process once the patient is cleared. It can also help to shorten the time needed for correction.


The Doctor of Chiropractic (trained in Primary Spine Care) therefore, can take on a critical and important role in the management of patients before and after spine surgery. Further, unlike the physical therapist, the Doctor of Chiropractic having physician class status, is licensed to fully diagnose, manage and treat biomechanical pathology of the spine when indicated.


Primary Spine Care


Despite this, not all Chiropractic Doctors have additional post-graduate training or experience to manage complex spine cases. This is no different than a Medical Doctor having just completed medical school not being able to function in the capacity of a specialist short of residency and/or a fellowship program.


One solution that provides the Doctor of Chiropractic with the additional training and experience to manage complex spine cases is an extensive post-graduate training program in Primary Spine Care as previously discussed. Currently, there is a growing body of Chiropractic Doctors through an extensive post-graduate program offered through the Academy of Chiropractic, that are becoming qualified in Primary Spine Care that is well prepared to take on the role in managing patients with complex spine related issues (


The concept of the Doctor of Chiropractic taking on the role of a Primary Spine Care provider was discussed in an article by Erwin, Korpela and Jones (2013). The stated, “Chiropractors have the potential to address a substantial portion of spinal disorders; however the utilization rate of chiropractic services has remained low and largely unchanged for decades. Other health care professions such as podiatry/chiropody, physiotherapy and naturopathy have successfully gained public and professional trust, increases in the scope of practice and distinct niche positions within mainstream health care. Due to the overwhelming burden of spine care upon the health care system, the establishment of a ‘primary spine care provider’ may be a worthwhile niche position to create for society’s needs. Chiropractors could fulfill this role, but not without first reviewing and improving its approach to the management of spinal disorders” (p. 285).



In conclusion, the Doctor of Chiropractic has the foundational training to diagnose, manage and treat patients when indicated both before and after spinal surgery. However, with additional post-graduate training in Primary Spine Care, the Doctor of Chiropractic can obtain the necessary skills to manage more complex spine conditions which include coordinating care with the spine surgeon, pain management doctors and even a patient’s primary care doctor. With the current opioid crisis in the United States, there is a need for a front-line provider to lead in the management of non-surgical spine care and the Doctor of Chiropractic as a licensed physician is positioned to take on that role especially with additional training in Primary Spine Care.




  1. Silver Jerry and Miller Jared H. (2004, February). Regeneration Beyond the Glial Scar. Nature Publishing Group, Volume 5, 146-156. Retrieved from
  2. Makhni Melvin C., MD, MBA, Shillingford, Jamal, N. MD, Laratta, Joseph, L. MD, Hyun, Seung-Jae, MD, PhD and Kim Yongjung, J., MD. (2018). Restoration of Sagittal Balance in Spinal Deformity. Journal of Korean Neurosurgery Society, 61(2), 167-179.
  3. Serena S. Hu, MD, Jean Charles LeHuec, MD, PhD and J.N. Alastair Gibson, MD, FRCS(Ed), FRCS(Tr &Orth), MFSTEd. (2016 Jan/Feb). “Proper sagittal balance may correlate with better surgical outcomes.” Retrieved from
  4. Jessica A. Tang, BS Justin K. Scheer, BS, Justin S. Smith, MD, PhD, Vedat Deviren, MD, Shay Bess, MD, Robert A. Hart, MD, Virginie Lafage, PhD Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD, Frank Schwab, MD and Christopher P. Ames, MD. (2015). The Impact of Standing Regional Cervical Sagittal Alignment on Outcomes in Posterior Cervical Fusion Surgery. Neurosurgery 76, S14-S21.
  5. Kuang-Ting Yeh, MD, PhD, Ru-Ping Lee, RN, PhD, Ing-Ho Chen, MD, Tzai-Chiu Yu, MD, Kuan-Lin Liu, MD, PhD, Cheng-Huan Peng, MD, Jen-Hung Wang, MD, and Wen-Tien Wu, MD, PhD. (2018). Correlation of Functional Outcomes and Sagittal Alignment After Long Instrumented Fusion for Degenerative Thoracolumbar Spinal Disease. Spine, 43(19), 1355-1362.
  6. Johns Hopkins. (n.d., pp. 1-36). “A Detailed Guide to Your Surgery and The Recovery Process. Retrieved from (
  7. Hayeri Mohammad Reza, MD, Tehranzadeh Jamshid, MD. (August 6, 2009). “Diagnostic imaging of spinal fusion and complications.” Retrieved from
  8. Studin Mark, D.C., Primary Spine Care Qualified, “What is Primary Spine Care?” Retrieved from
  9. W. Mark Erwin, DC, PhD, A. Pauliina Korpela, BSc and Robert C. Jones. (2013) Chiropractors as Primary Spine Care Providers: precedents and essential measures, Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 57(4), 285-291.



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Published in Neck Problems


Manipulation vs. Mobilization

Part 1 of 2

Matt Erickson DC, FSBT



A report on the scientific literature



Kinetically,spinal manipulation is defined as a high-velocity low amplitude (HVLA) thrust maneuver. According to Ernst and Harkness (2001), “SM (spinal manipulation) involves high velocity thrusts with either a long or short lever-arm, usually aimed at reducing pain and improving range of motion (p. 879).



Kinetics and kinematics of motion (sub-areas of biomechanics) were described by Evans and Breen (2006). “Kinetics is the branch of mechanics that deals with motion (of an object) under the action of given forces. This includes static (equilibrium) states in which no movement is occurring and dynamic states in which forces may vary as movement occurs” (p. 72). “Kinematics is the branch of mechanics that deals with motion (of an object) without reference to force or mass. With a few notable exceptions, most biomechanical studies of spinal manipulation have given scant attention to kinematics” (p. 73). Thus, kinetics is the study of the type of force used with spinal manipulation while kinematics is the study of the motion geometry of the thrust.



Respectfully, spinal manipulation performed by a doctor of chiropractic is a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA). From an insurance coding a billing perspective, a CSA is also called a chiropractic manipulative treatment (CMT). In part 2 of this series, we will detail the necessity for that language. In this paper (part 1 of 2), we will focus on the definition of spinal manipulation and the different outcomes desired by disparate professions. However, the terminology of a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment needs to be considered at all times when referencing spinal manipulation in this article.



Zinovy and Funiciello (2018, Sept. 17, para. 2) regarding spinal manipulation reported, “This high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) thrusts, also called chiropractic adjustments or osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMT), are carefully performed by applying enough force to push the spinal joint beyond the restricted range of motion with the goal of improving the joint’s function, increasing range of motion, and reducing pain. When a high-velocity manipulation is performed on the spine, it typically involves a cracking or popping sound that can be heard. Some people report feeling relief or enjoying the cracking sound, whereas others do not” (


Conversely, spinal mobilization is kinetically defined as a low-velocity, low-amplitude force (LVLA) non-thrust maneuver used to help relieve pain, improve motion and restore function. Zinovy and Funiciello (2018, Sept. 17) regarding spinal mobilization wrote, “These low-velocity, low amplitude (LVLA) manipulations gradually work the spinal joints through their well-tolerable ranges of motion rather than forcing them beyond the normal limit. The practitioner’s hands gently move the vertebra and stretch each spinal level being worked. Spinal mobilization usually does not involve a neck-cracking sound” (para. 3).


Differentiating Spinal Manipulation Amongst Providers


In a United States-based review (which derived from an analysis of 67 articles and 9 books or textbooks) by Shekelle, Adams, Chassin, Hurwitz, Phillips and Brook (1991, P. 3), the authors stated “A recent analysis of a community-based sample of patients showed that chiropractors delivered 94% of all the manipulative care for which reimbursement was sought, with osteopaths delivering 4%, and general practitioners and orthopedic surgeons accounting for the remainder” (


In other words, DCs perform 94% of All spinal manipulations in the United States while Doctors of Osteopathy (DOs) perform 4% and subsequently, the remaining 2% of spinal manipulations are performed by Physical Therapists (PTs) and Medical Doctors (MDs).



Further, although Zinovy and Funiciello (2018, Sept. 17) reported the general goal of spinal manipulation is “improving the joint’s function, increasing range of motion, and reducing pain” (para. 2), beyond that, the intention of spinal manipulation amongst DCs, DOs and PTs is different. So, what is the difference?



Spinal Manipulation (CSA) According to DCs


In addition to improving joint function, increasing range of motion and reducing pain, spinal manipulation for DCs is about normalizing neuro-biomechanical biomechanical function and reducing neurological irritation to maintain optimal function of the nervous system. Petterman (2007) explained this is known as the Law of the Nerve (p. 168).  DC’s more precisely regard spinal manipulation as a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment or chiropractic manipulative treatment (CMT). Andersson, Lucente, Davis, Kappler, Lipton and Leurgans (1999) reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, “The chiropractic approach is focused more on the nervous system and advocates adjustments of the spinal vertebrae to improve neurotransmission(p. 1426).


Manip vs Mob


Evans (2002), referring to the above images, described the cause of neuro-biomechanical dysfunction due to meniscoid entrapment as follows:

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


Evans (2002) continued:

Bogduk and Jull reviewed the likelihood of intra-articular entrapments within zygapophyseal joints as potential sources of pain…Fibro-adipose meniscoid have also been identified as structures capable of creating a painful situation. Bogduk and Jull reviewed the possible role of fibro-adipose meniscoid causing pain purely by creating a tractioning effect on the zygapophyseal joint capsule, again after intra-articular pinching of tissue (p. 252). A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent the impaction of the meniscoid. The patient would tend to be more comfortable with the spine maintained in a flexed position, because this will disengage the meniscoid. Extension would therefore tend to be inhibited. This condition has also been termed a “joint lock” or “facet-lock,” the latter of which indicates the involvement of the zygapophyseal joint…


Evans (2002) further added, “An HVLAT manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment CSA], involving gapping of the zygapophyseal joint, reduces the impaction and opens the joint, so encouraging the meniscoid to return to its normal anatomic position in the joint cavity. This ceases the distension of the joint capsule, thus reducing pain” (p. 252-253).


When considering the neuro-biomechanical lesion, (or vertebral subluxation complex [VSC] as traditionally coined) in its entirety, we must consider the etiology as these forces can lead to complex patho-biomechanical components of the spine and supporting tissues. As a result, a neurological cascade can ensue that would further define the lesion beyond the inter-articulation entrapments.



Panjabi (2006) reported, “Abnormal mechanics of the spinal column has been hypothesized to lead to back pain via nociceptive sensors. The path from abnormal mechanics to nociceptive sensation may go via inflammation, biochemical and nutritional changes, immunological factors, and changes in the structure and material of the endplates and discs, and neural structures, such as nerve ingrowth into the diseased intervertebral disc. The abnormal mechanics of the spine may be due to degenerative changes in the spinal column and/or injury of the ligaments. Most likely, the initiating event is some kind of trauma involving the spine. It may be a single trauma due to an accident or microtrauma caused by repetitive motion over a long time. It is also possible that spinal muscles will fire in an uncoordinated way in response to sudden fear of injury, such as when one misjudges the depth of a step. All these events may cause spinal ligament injury” (p.668-669).


In short, chiropractors primarily use a very specific high-velocity, low-amplitude spinal manipulation/ or a specific chiropractic spinal adjustment to correct the neuro-biomechanical dysfunction and reduce the neurological irritation/interference.



Spinal Manipulation According to DOs


The outcome for DOs is to improve overall blood flow throughout the body. As written by Petterman (2007), this is known as the Law of the Artery (p. 168). This is further supported by Andersson et al., (1999) who wrote, “The focus of osteopathic medicine has been the need to optimize the blood circulation to maintain or restore health” (p. 1426).


Further, DO’s perform non-specific spinal manipulation which they regard as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). According to the American Osteopathic Association, “Through OMT, physicians manually apply a specific amount of pressure to different regions in the body. These techniques can help: Treat structural and tissue abnormalities, relieve joint restriction and misalignment, restore muscle and tissue balance and promote the overall movement of blood flow throughout the body (



Spinal Manipulation According to PTs


Like DOs, PTs perform non-specific spinal manipulation that is regarded as a unique form of manual therapy that they call thrust joint manipulation (TJM). According to Puentedura, Slaughter, Reilly, Venturan and Young (2017), “Thrust joint manipulation (TJM) is defined as a high-velocity low-amplitude thrust technique which can be distinguished from other joint mobilization techniques that do not utilize a final thrust maneuver” (p. 74).

Historically, in 1920, spinal manipulation was first introduced in Britain to physical therapists by the Osteopathic profession. Paris (2000) reported, “Osteopathic medicine and surgery was founded by Andrew Taylor Still in 1874” (p. 68). Pettman (2007) reported, in 1892, Andrew Still established the American Osteopathic College in Kirksville, Missouri. Conversely, in 1897, DD Palmer opened Palmer College of Cure which is now known as Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport Iowa (168).



Pettman (2007) further reported:

“Two of Still’s original students, William Smith and J. Martin Littlejohn, were medical physicians from Scotland. Smith struck a deal with Still that if Still taught him osteopathy, he would teach Still’s students anatomy, greatly enhancing the scientific validity of this emerging profession.


Littlejohn would become the first dean of the College of Osteopathy in Kirksville. He would then go on to found the Chicago College of Osteopathy before returning to Britain and becoming the founder of the British College of Osteopathy in London in 1917.


Despite many frustrating attempts, Littlejohn could never get the English legislature to give osteopathy the same parity with medicine that was enjoyed by his American colleagues. Ironically, instead of behaving antagonistically, he chose to begin educating his fellow physicians and physical therapists in the art and science of spinal manipulation as of 1920.” (p. 169).


Conversely, the development of manipulation to the physical therapy profession in the United States occurred 40 years after being introduced to PTs in Britain in 1920. In a document on the history of manipulative therapy in the United States, Paris (2000) wrote, “Since the 1960s, physical therapists have developed their own body of knowledge in manipulation, emphasizing pain relief and enhanced physical function” (p. 66).


Farrell and Jensen (1992) added, “Physical therapy education has evolved considerably since 1970, when just a few programs included content and skills in "manipulative therapy"” (p. 845).  Thus, physical therapists in the United States did not start developing knowledge of manipulation until the 1960s and few US PT programs taught manipulation in 1970.


PT’s Historical Confusion of Manipulation Vs. Mobilization


As already discussed, the development of spinal manipulation for PTs did not begin until the 1960s. Further, PTs did not have standardized terminology for manual therapy and often mobilization and manipulation were used interchangeably. Mintken, DeRosa, Little and Britt (2008) stated, “Seminal documents from noted professional associations and organizations, such as the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists, and the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapists, interchange such terms as manual therapy, mobilization, and manipulation with the implication often being that they are synonymous” (p. 51).



Mintken et al., (2008) added, “Physical therapists in particular are not immune to the consequences of this history. John Mennell, MD stated that physical therapists used a confusing array of terms that “cloud the issue by talking about degrees of manipulation using such terms as articulation and mobilization leading up to manipulation.” Such a woeful lack of language specificity ultimately precludes any ability to compare and contrast the intervention or the outcome and minimizes any opportunity to ultimately discern effective from ineffective” (p. 51).


Mintken et al., (2008) continued, “Furthermore, despite Mennell’s caution appearing many years ago, one could argue that the clarity of language concerning manipulation has not improved, but in fact has worsened” (p. 51).



To address this issue Mintken et al., (2008) published their article to standardize manipulation terminology. Mintken et al., (2008) stated, “In February 2007, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists formed a task force to standardize manual therapy terminology, starting with the intervention of manipulation. The ultimate goal of this task force was to create a template that has the potential to be used internationally by the community of physical therapists in order to standardize manual therapy nomenclature” (pg. 50). Thus, you can see that as late as 2007, it was being reported that manipulation and mobilization in the physical therapy profession were still poorly differentiated and the terminology was not standardized.


The Mintken et al., (2008) reported, “The aim of the task force created in February 2007 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists was to propose a model for standardized terminology to describe manipulative techniques as simply and clearly as possible in language that is understandable to all clinicians, regardless of individual clinical practices or schools of thought” (p. 52-53).




DC’s perform 94% of All spinal manipulations in the United States. Although PTs began learning manipulation in Britain in 1920 through the osteopathic profession, the physical therapy profession did not begin developing spinal manipulation for PTs in the United States until the 1960s and in 1970 few schools included content and skills in manipulation. The purpose of this statement is not to diminish a PT trained to perform non-specific spinal manipulation, but rather to highlight the limited non-specific use and true infancy among PTs in performing spinal manipulation in the US.


Finally, spinal manipulation is kinematically regarded as HVLA and not synonymous with spinal mobilization which is regarded as LVLA. Further, while spinal manipulation acts to improve joint function, increase range of motion, and reduce pain, beyond this, it’s clinical intention is different amongst DCs (CSA: a specific form of spinal manipulation to normalize neuro-biomechanical biomechanical function and removing nerve interference), DOs (OMT: a non-specific form of spinal manipulation with intention on improving blood flow) and PTs (TJM: a non-specific form of spinal manipulation regarded as a unique form of manual therapy).



In part 2 of this series, we will further differentiate spinal manipulation amongst DCs, DOs and PTs and how it is a physician-based service for DCs and DO’s and a form of manual therapy for PTs. Moreover, we will explain in greater depth how spinal manipulation provided by DCs is regarded as specific while among DOs and PTs it is regarded as non-specific. Finally, we will discuss how a DCs intention in performing a specific CSA follow a salutogenic model (what keeps one healthy or well) while the intention of PTs and DOs in performing a non-specific spinal manipulation called TJM or OMT respectfully follows a pathogenic model(what causes disease or makes one ill).




  1. Vermeulen Henricus M., Rozing Piet m., Obermann Win R., Cessie Saskia le and Vlieland Vliet. (2006). Comparison of High-Grade and Low-Grade Mobilization Techniques in the Management of Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder: Randomized Controlled Trial. Physical Therapy, 86(3), 355-368.
  2. Ernst Edzard, MD, PhD, FRCP (Edin) and Harkness Elaine, BSc. (2001). Review Article Spinal Manipulation: A Systematic Review of Sham-Controlled, Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trials Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 22(4), 879-889.
  3. Evans David W., BSc (Hons) Ost and Breen Alan C., DC, PhD (2006). A Biomechanical Model For Mechanically Efficient Cavitation Production During Spinal Manipulation Prethrust Position And The Neutral Zone. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 29(1), 72-82.
  4. Zinovy Meyler, DO and Funiciello Marco, DO. (2018, Sept. 17). Manual Manipulation and Mobilization for Chronic Stiff Neck. Spine Health, Retrieved from
  5. Shekelle Paul G., Adams Alan H., Chassin Mark R., Hurwitz Eric L., Phillips Reed B. and Brook Robert H. (1991). The Appropriateness of Spinal Manipulation for Low-Back Pain: Project Overview and Literature Review. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from
  6. Pettman Erland, PT, MCSP, MCPA, FCAMT, COMT (2007). A History of Manipulative Therapy. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy 15(3), 165–174.
  7. Andersson Gunnar B.J., MD, PhD, Lucente Tracy, MPH, Davis Andrew M., MPH, Kappler Robert E., DO, Lipton James A., DO and Leurgans Sue, PhD. (1999). A Comparison of Osteopathic Manipulation with Standard Care for Patients with Low Back Pain. New England Journal of Medicine, 341(14), 1427-1431.
  8. Evans, D. W. (2002). Mechanisms and effects of spinal high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust manipulation: Previous theories. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 25
  9. Panjabi, M. M. (2006). A hypothesis of chronic back pain: Ligament subfailure injuries lead to muscle control dysfunction. European Spine Journal15
  10. American Osteopathic Association. (n.d.). What is Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment? Retrieve from
  11. Puentedura Emilio J., Slaughter Rebecca, Reilly Sean, Ventura Erwin and Young Daniel. (2017). Thrust joint manipulation utilization by U.S. physical therapists. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 25(2), 74-82.
  12. Paris Stanley V., PhD, PT. (2000). A History of Manipulative Therapy Through the Ages and Up to the Current Controversy in the United States. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy 8(2), 66 – 77.
  13. Farrell Joseph P. and Jensen Qall M. (1992). Manual Therapy: Critical Assesment Profession of Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy 72(12), 843-852.
  14. Mintken Paul E., PT, DPT, OCS1, DeRosa Carl, PT, PhD, DPT, FAPTA2, Little Tamara, PT, DMT, FAAOMPT3, and Smith Britt, PT, DPT, OCS. (2008). A Model for Standardizing Manipulation Terminology in Physical Therapy Practice. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 16(1), 50–56.

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Published in Low Back Problems

The Chiropractic Adjustment Changes Brain Function


The Evidence of Increased Muscle Strength is Added to Pain Sensitivity and Autonomic Changes



William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP

Matt Erickson DC, FSBT


A report on the scientific literature


There is a growing body of evidence that a high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA) has a significant influence on cortical (brain) and other central (cord) changes. This is significant as the evidence is now answering more questions on why has chiropractic has had such a profound effect on a myriad of conditions beyond back pain. Technology, including but not limited to functional MRI, NCV, EEG and sEMG renders demonstrable validation of the effect the chiropractic spinal adjustment has on changes in central function.


A chiropractic spinal manipulation/adjustment is a specific HVLA thrust maneuver designed to correct spinal patho-neuro-biomechanics (remove nerve irritation/interference, restore biomechanical balance), increases important proteins such as Substance P (Evans 2002) and makes plastic changes to the central nervous system. Conversely, a spinal manipulation as manual therapy or thrust joint manipulation (TJM) performed by physical therapists (PT’s) is a generalized non-specific low-velocity, low-amplitude of non-specific HVLA thrust maneuver of joints and connective tissue to improve motion and decrease muscle tension.



Essentially, the intent of TJM is in treating pain and dysfunction. That is not to say a non-specific manipulation will not help a patient. However, when spinal manipulation is not performed as a chiropractic based neuro-biomechanical corrective adjustment or from a salutogenic health management perspective, it is something else entirely. Therefore, spinal manipulation as a chiropractic adjustment delivered by a chiropractor is not synonymous with TJM, mobilization or spinal manipulation delivered by a PT.


Reed, Pickar, Sozio, and Long (2014) reported, “.forms of manual therapy have been clinically shown to increase mechanical pressure pain thresholds (i.e., decrease sensitivity) in both symptomatic and asymptomatic subjects. Cervical spinal manipulation (chiropractic HVLA) has been shown to result in unilateral as well as bilateral mechanical hypoalgesia. Compared with no manual therapy, oscillatory spinal manual therapy at T12 and L4 produced significantly higher paraspinal pain thresholds at T6, L1, and L3 in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. The immediate and widespread hypoalgesia associated with manual therapy treatments has been attributed to alterations in peripheral and/or central pain processing including activation of descending pain inhibitory systems. Increasing evidence from animal models suggests that manual therapy activates the central nervous system and, in so doing, affects areas well beyond those being treated. (p. 277)


Reed et al. (2014) also reported, The finding that only the higher intensity manipulative stimulus (ie, 85% BW [body weight] vs 55% BW or control) decreased the mechanical sensitivity of lateral thalamic neurons to mechanical trunk stimulation coincides with other reports relating graded mechanical or electrical stimulus intensity to the magnitude of central inhibition. Several clinical studies indicate that spinal manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment] alters central processing of mechanical stimuli evidenced by increased pressure pain thresholds and decreased pain sensitivity in asymptomatic and symptomatic subjects following manipulation. (p. 282)


Daligadu, Haavik, Yielder, Baarbe, and Murphy (2013) reported, There is also evidence in the literature to suggest that muscle impairment occurs early in the history of onset of spinal complaints, and that such muscle impairment does not automatically resolve even when pain symptoms improve. This has led some authors to suggest that the deficits in proprioception and motor control, rather than the pain itself, may be the main factors defining the clinical picture and chronicity of various chronic pain conditions. Furthermore, recent evidence has demonstrated that spinal manipulation (CSA) can alter neuromuscular and proprioceptive function in patients with neck and back pain as well as in asymptomatic participants. For instance, cervical spine manipulation (CSA) has been shown to produce greater changes in pressure pain threshold in lateral epicondylalgia than thoracic manipulation; and in asymptomatic patients, lumbar spine manipulation (CSA) was found to significantly influence corticospinal and spinal reflex excitability. Interestingly, Soon et al did not find neurophysiological changes following mobilization on motor function and pressure pain threshold in asymptomatic individuals, perhaps suggesting that manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustments], as distinct from mobilization, induces unique physiological changes. There is also accumulating evidence to suggest that chiropractic manipulation can result in changes to central nervous system function including reflex excitability, cognitive processing, sensory processing, and motor output. There is also evidence in SCNP [sub-clinical neck pain] individuals that chiropractic manipulation alters cortical somatosensory processing and elbow joint position sense. This evidence suggests that chiropractic manipulation may have a positive neuromodulatory effect on the central nervous system, and this may play a role in the effect it has in the treatment of neck pain. It is hoped improving our understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms that may precede the development of chronic neck pain in individuals with sub-clinical neck pain (SCNP) will help provide a neurophysiological marker of altered sensory processing that could help determine if an individual is showing evidence of disordered sensorimotor integration and thus might benefit from early intervention to prevent the progression of SCNP into more long-term pain states.  (p. 528)


Christriansen, Niazi, Holt, Nedergaard, Duehr, Allen, Marshall, Turker and Haarvik (2018) discussed the effects of a single session of a chiropractic spinal manipulation (CSA) on strength and cortical drive. They studied the effects upwards of 60 minutes and further testing is needed to determine the long-term effects of the adjustment. They found in “blinded studies” that “the increased maximum voluntary contraction force lasted for 30 min and the corticospinal excitability increase persisted for at least 60 minutes.” (pg. 737)


Christiansen et. Al (2018) also reported, “The increased V-wave amplitudes observed in the current study possibly reflect an increased cortical drive in the corticospinal pathways and corresponding increased excitability of the MNs following SM found differences in the cortical drive in volleyball athletes competing at different levels, and argued that elite players had increased cortical drive correlating to their biomechanical performance. The absence of change in the H-reflex in the presence of the increased MVC along with increased V-waves suggests that it's possible that the change post manipulation occurred at supraspinal centers involving a cortical neural drive. The V-waves represent cortical drive. The absence of change in the H-reflex alone suggests that the spinal motor neurons and the excitability of the spindle primary afferent synapses on the spinal motor neurons did not change as a result of SM.” (pg. 745) The above paragraph indicates there is no input at the cord level as the H-Reflex exhibited no changes.



Increased motor function for a minimum of 60 minutes post-chiropractic spinal adjustment has far-reaching manifestations for a dichotomy of the population. Athletes at every level will benefit from increased motor function and patients suffering from either muscular or neuro-degenerative illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Muscular Dystrophy and others will also potentially benefit. Although this article touched on PT manual therapy, low-velocity, low-amplitude or non-specific thrust joint manipulation; these forms of treatment do not render the outcomes a chiropractic spinal adjustment.


Christiansen et. Al (2018) concluded and perfectly positioned the effect of a chiropractic spinal adjustment and the effect on the brain, “this study supports a growing body of research that suggests chiropractic spinal manipulation’s main effect is neuroplastic in nature and affects corticospinal excitability. Changes in both cerebellum and prefrontal cortex function have been implicated post-spinal manipulation in previous research studies. The presence of mild, recurrent spinal dysfunction has been shown to be associated with maladaptive neural plastic changes, such as alterations in elbow joint position sense mental rotation ability, and even multisensory integration Furthermore, spinal manipulation of dysfunctional spinal segments has been shown to impact somatosensory processing, sensorimotor integration and motor control.” (pg. 746)




  1. Reed, W. R., Pickar, J. G., Sozio, R. S., & Long, C. R. (2014). Effect of spinal manipulation thrust magnitude on trunk mechanical activation thresholds of lateral thalamic neurons. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 37
  2. Daligadu, J., Haavik, H., Yielder, P. C., Baarbe, J., & Murphy, B. (2013). Alterations in cortical and cerebellar motor processing in subclinical neck pain patients following spinal manipulation. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 36.
  3. Christiansen, T. L., Niazi, I. K., Holt, K., Nedergaard, R. W., Duehr, J., Allen, K., ... & Haavik, H. (2018). The effects of a single session of spinal manipulation on strength and cortical drive in athletes. European journal of applied physiology118

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Published in Neck Problems

Deceptive Dogmatic Reporting Despite Successful Chiropractic Outcomes

Revealing the deception of low back pain naturally resolving

…and the dogma of non-specific back pain


Mark Studin, DC
William J. Owens DC
Timothy Weir, DC 


Citation:Studin M., Owens W., Weir T. (2018) Deceptive Dogmatic Reporting Despite Successful Chiropractic Outcomes, American Chiropractor, 40 (11) 10, 12-15

A report on the scientific literature

Over the past decade, there has been a growing body of evidence demonstrating the “how and why” of chiropractic evidenced-based results. However, there has also been a historical level of reporting dogmatic issues related to the “the natural history of back pain” and “non-specific back pain” that deceptively enter and intersect the conversation to apparently discredit “pro-chiropractic” evidenced-based research that has persisted in contemporary literature. This review is centered on those issues, and the references for the above comments will ensue in the paragraphs below.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports “Most low back pain is acute, or short-term, and lasts a few days to a few weeks. It tends to resolve on its own with self-care, and there is no residual loss of function.” Kaiser Permanente, a national health system reports, “For most patients with back pain, the condition will improve within a few days or weeks.”

Kaiser Permanente goes on to report, “The primary goal of treatment is to maximize function and quality of life, rather than to eliminate pain. Some ongoing or recurrent pain is normal and not indicative of a serious problem. Avoid exposing the patient to unhelpful or possibly risky interventions. As a general rule, an intervention in which the patient is an active participant (e.g., physical therapy, walking, stretching, yoga) rather than a passive recipient (e.g., chiropractic, massage, acupuncture) is deemed to have greater potential to promote self-efficacy and self-management skills in the long term.”

Gedin, Edmar, Sundberg, and Burström in 2018 reported “Patients with acute back pain reported statistically significant and MCID (Minimal Clinically Important Difference) improvements in back pain intensity, back disability, HRQoL (Health-Related Quality of Life instrument), and statistically significant improvements in self-rated health, over four weeks following chiropractic care. Patients with chronic back pain reported statistically significant, albeit smaller and non MCID, changes for all PRO except self-rated health.

Interestingly, Gedin et al. have a significant level of statistics of demonstrating percentages of subjects who showed improvement and choose not to report that in the written part of the report, thereby not rendering a statistical interpretation. However, they included a caveat to perhaps minimize the positive results by reiterating the same deceptive dogma as discussed above. Gedin et. al then reported “However, it has been suggested that 90% of patients with acute low back pain recover within six weeks (van Tulder et al., 2006), which may also help explain the current findings of rapid improvements.(pg. 16) This opinion published in 2018 was referenced and supported by a 12-year old study which clearly ignored the contemporary literature.

Tamcan, Mannion, Eisenring, Horisberger (2010) reported on the only population-based study these authors were able to identify and concluded “When the 12-month follow-up period was divided into four equal time periods and, subsequently, clusters, it was seen that the majority of individuals placed in the moderate persistent [pain] cluster on the basis of the first 3 months data remained in this cluster at the following intervals. A reasonable consistency across time was also found for the clusters mild persistent and severe persistent. In contrast, the consistency of membership for the cluster initially identified as fluctuating was low, especially after six months.” (pg. 455-456) This study, which again is the only identified population-based study indicates that pain does not resolve “naturally” as was reported: “fluctuation was low, especially after six months.”

Knecht, Humphyres and Wirth (2017) reported on the recurrence of low back pain and stated, “Only 1 in 3 LBP (low back pain) episodes completely resolve within a year, and the percentage of LBP that goes from acute to chronic varies among studies from 2% to 34%.” Knecht et. Al (2017) also went on to report “Patients presenting with a subacute problem, lasting for more than 14 days at baseline, were at higher odds for a recurrent course, whereas the odds for a chronic course were higher only for patients presenting with a chronic problem (3 months) at baseline. Downie et al. reported that pain duration of more than five days was a factor that negatively affects prognosis. Similarly, duration of the current episode emerged as the most consistent factor for prognosis after one year in a study by Bekkering et al. and even predicted disability after five years. These findings suggest on the one hand that it might be prudent to seek professional advice [referenced chiropractic care in the article] early on in the pain episode.” (pg. 431)



These papers a part of the research trend supporting what the chiropractic profession has known all along, the natural progression of low back pain resulting in resolution is based on dogma and not supported by the research evidence. Additionally, the low back pain care path reported previously by Kaiser Permanente appears to be biased towards the denial of care and not consistent with the published literature.

Gedin et. Al (2018) also report, “it has been estimated that the vast majority of back pain cases is of non-specific origin.” (pg. 3) The concept of simply focusing on the treatment of non-specific back pain would render chiropractic no different than physical therapists when focusing on the “non-specific” nature of spine pain as the arbiter for care while the focus must be on the biomechanical compensation and individual motor units of the spine. Previous literature has verified that the supposition that “non-specific” is synonymous with ‘unobjectifiable” is erroneous since it was previously reported that chiropractic treats definite biomechanical changes in the motor units of the spine, therefore resulting in “very specific” biomechanical pathology.

Panjabi in 1992, presented a detailed work explaining how the biomechanical systems within the human spine react to the environment, how it can become dysfunctional and cause pain. He stated “Presented here is the conceptual basis for the assertion that the spinal stabilizing system consists of three subsystems, the vertebrae, discs, and ligaments constitute the passive subsystem, all muscles and tendons surrounding the spinal column that can apply forces to the spinal column constitute the active subsystem and finally, the nerves and central nervous system comprise the neural subsystem, which determines the requirements for spinal stability by monitoring the various trans­ducer signals [of the nervous system] and directs the active subsystem to provide the needed stability.” He goes on to state, “A dysfunction of a component of any one of the subsystems may lead to one or more of the following three possibilities, an immediate response from other subsys­tems to successfully compensate, a long-term adaptation response of one or more subsystems or an injury to one or more components of any subsystem.”


Panjabi continues, “It is conceptualized that the first response results in normal function, the second results in normal function but with an altered spinal stabilizing system, and the third leads to overall system dysfunction, producing, for example, low back pain. In situations where additional loads or complex postures are anticipated, the neural control unit may alter the muscle recruitment strategy, with the temporary goal of enhancing the spine stability beyond the normal requirements.” (pg. 383) This is where the idea of biomechanical compensation was identified.



Panjabi’s lifelong work summarized in the above work is the basis for the underlying mechanics of spine pain that does NOT correlate well to anatomical findings. Anatomical findings are fracture, tumor or infection and allopathy has labeled anything else “non-specific low back pain” which continues to maintain a dogmatic perspective in both clinical decision making and all too often, the literature, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.



Cramer et al. (2002) further clarified the biomechanics of spinal failure at the motor until level and reported, “One component of spinal dysfunction treated by chiropractors has been described as the development of adhesions in the zygapophysial (Z) joints after hypomobility. This hypomobility may be the result of injury, inactivity, or repetitive asymmetrical movements… one beneficial effect of spinal manipulation may be the “breaking up” of putative fibrous adhesions that develop in hypomobile or ‘fixed’ Z joints. Spinal adjusting of the lumbar region is thought to separate or gap the articular surfaces of the Z joints. Theoretically, gapping breaks up adhesions, thus helping the motion segment reestablish a physiologic range of motion.” (p. 2459)

Evans (2002) reported, “on flexion of the lumbar spine, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with it. On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying ‘ lesion’ under the capsule: a meniscoid entrapment. A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent impaction of the meniscoid.” (pg. 252)

Evans (2002) continued, “an HVLA manipulation, involving gapping of the zygapophyseal joint reduces the impaction and opens the joint, so encouraging the meniscoid to return to its normal anatomical position in the joint cavity. This ceases the distension of the joint capsule, thus reducing pain.”  (p. 253)

The involvement of nociceptors and nociceptive impulses stimulates the cortical regions of the brain which evokes a cortical response to that noxious stimuli. Haavik et al. (2017) reported the effects of a chiropractic spinal high velocity-low amplitude adjustment by stating “These results are consistent with previous findings that have suggested increases in strength following spinal manipulation were due to descending cortical drive and could not be explained by changes at the level of the spinal cord.” (pg. 1)

The persistent utilization of “non-specific” in reference to specific biomechanical alterations and failure in the human spine is dogmatic and deceptive since it “lumps together” all types of manual treatment, where chiropractic, based upon its unique application differs from other forms of manual therapy performed by physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy. It differs in the ability of chiropractors to diagnosis and manages spinal compensation. In comparison to each other, each discipline is disparate in goals, application, and science and when not considered as such, lends itself to continue deceptive dogmatic arguments ignoring the evidenced-based truths of chiropractic.


  1. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2018) Retrieved from
  2. Kaiser Permanente, Non-specific Back Pain Guidelines (2017) retrieved from”
  3. Gedin, F., Dansk, V., Egmar, A. C., Sundberg, T., & Burström, K. (2018). Patient-reported improvements of pain, disability and health-related quality of life following chiropractic care for back pain–A national observational study in Sweden. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
  4. Tamcan, O., Mannion, A. F., Eisenring, C., Horisberger, B., Elfering, A., & Müller, U. (2010). The course of chronic and recurrent low back pain in the general population. Pain150(3), 451-457.
  5. Knecht, C., Humphreys, B. K., & Wirth, B. (2017). An Observational Study Recurrences of Low Back Pain During the First 12 Months After Chiropractic Treatment. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics40(6), 427-433.
  6. Downie AS, Hancock MJ, Rzewuska M, Williams CM, Lin CW, Maher CG. Trajectories of acute low back pain: a latent class growth analysis. 2016;157(1):225-234
  7. Bekkering GE, Hendriks HJ, van Tulder MW, et al. Prognostic factors for low back pain in patients referred for physiotherapy: comparing outcomes and varying modeling techniques. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2005;30(16):1881-1886.
  8. Panjabi, M. M. (1992). The stabilizing system of the spine. Part I. Function, dysfunction, adaptation, and enhancement. Journal of spinal disorders5, 383-383.
  9. 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.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.
  10. Haavik, H., Niazi, I. K., Jochumsen, M., Sherwin, D., Flavel, S., & Türker, K. S. (2016). Impact of spinal manipulation on the cortical drive to upper and lower limb muscles. Brain Sciences7(1), 2.

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Published in Neck Problems

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

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


By: Ray Wiegand, DC

Mark Studin DC.


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






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

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



Serial examination                  1/2018 compared to 5/2018




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



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



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





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

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Published in Case Reports

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


By Mark Studin

William Owens


A Report on the Scientific Literature


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Studin and Owens (2017) reported the following:

Groeneweg et al. (2017) also stated:

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

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

Cifuentes et al. (2011) started by stating:

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

Mafi, McCarthy and Davis (2013) stated:

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


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

Mafi, McCarthy and Davis (2013) concluded:

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


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


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



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Published in Neck Problems


Primary Spine Care

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

By Mark Studin

William J. Owens

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

The type of first healthcare provider was a significant predictor of the duration of the first episode of compensation only during the first 5 months of compensation. When compared with medical doctors, chiropractors were associated with shorter durations of compensation and physiotherapists with longer ones. Physiotherapists were also associated with higher odds of a second episode of financial compensation. These differences raise concerns regarding the useof physiotherapists as gatekeepers for the worker’s compensation system. (pg. 388)

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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Chiropractic & Central Afferent Inhibition:

A Chiropractic Care Path & Mechanism for Chronic Pain, Tremors, Spatial and Inhibitory Distortion


By Mark Studin

William J. Owens

Michael Barone

A report on the scientific literature 


Although it is unusual in the literature to place a disclaimer in the beginning of an article, we want to ensure that our reporting is not inflammatory since the foundation of this article was written with the following limitation in our primary literary source, Haavik, Niazi, Holt and Murphy (2017) reported:


This study was not designed to test the efficacy of chiropractic care for treating chronic pain; therefore, conclusions about efficacy cannot be drawn from our findings. The study did not include randomization with an adequate control group, thus limiting the interpretations that can be made about the changes in pain observed in the trial. Causation cannot be claimed. (pg. 135)


Although Haavik, et al. reported limitations in their study, the results cannot be overlooked or minimized, particularly when those results match what doctors working within a “Best Practice Model” (the patient and doctor feedback component) have been reporting for decades. Additionally, in the clinical setting, this information provides direction to practitioners searching for answers although the mechanisms are not yet fully understood. Results often don’t mandate detailed knowledge of the mechanism and that is the primary reason why both “evidenced based” and “best practice” models must be embraced and combined (pure literature results with doctor and patient feedback or experiences) as a matter of public health.


When we consider central afferent neurological input, the inability to inhibit those signals leads to sensorimotor disturbances that are found in the chronicity of many chronic pain conditions, essential tremors, dystonia and other central spatial and temporal mismatches. In addition, we must consider to the long-term negative sequalae of those conditions, such as brain shrinkage.


Baliki, Geha, Apkarian and Chialvo (2008) reported:


Recent studies have demonstrated that chronic pain harms cortical areas unrelated to pain, long-term pain alters the functional connectivity of cortical regions known to be active at rest, i.e., the components of the “default mode network” (DMN). This DMN is marked by balanced positive and negative correlations between activity in component brain regions. In several disorders, however this balance is disrupted. Studying with fMRI [functional MRI] a group of chronic back pain patients and healthy controls while executing a simple visual attention task, we discovered that chronic back pain patients, despite performing the task equally well as controls, displayed reduced deactivation in several key default mode network regions. These findings demonstrate that chronic pain has a widespread impact on overall brain function, and suggest that disruptions of the default mode network may underlie the cognitive and behavioral impairments accompanying chronic pain.” (pg. 1398)


“The existence of a resting state in which the brain remained active in an organized manner, is called the ‘default mode of brain function. The regions exhibiting a decrease in activity during task performance are the component members of the “default-mode network” (DMN), which in concerted action maintain the brain resting state. Recent studies have already demonstrated that the brain default mode network is disrupted in autism, Alzheimer’ disease, depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, suggesting that the study of brain resting activity can be useful to understand disease states as well as potentially provide diagnostic information.”  (pg. 1398)


This is important since for the first time we are starting to see a published correlation between spinal function, chronic pain and central nervous system changes.  This is what our founders have observed yet were unable to prove.


“Thus, the alterations in the patient’s brain at ‘rest’ can result in a different default mode network organization. In turn, potential changes in the default-mode network activity could be related to symptoms (other than pain) commonly exhibited by chronic pain patients, including depression and anxiety, sleep disturbances, and decision-making abnormalities, which also significantly diminish their quality of life… chronic pain patients display a dramatic alteration in several key default-mode network regions, suggesting that chronic pain has a widespread impact on overall brain function” (pg. 1398)


This information is pointing to the fact that a doctor of chiropractic should be involved in the triage and treatment of these patients and part of a long-term spinal care program. 


Baliki Et. Al (2008) continued “Consistent with extensive earlier work examining visuospatial attention tasks, dominant activations were located in posterior parietal and lateral prefrontal cortices, whereas deactivations occurred mainly within Pre-Frontal Cortex and Posterior Cingulate/Cuneate Cortexes. Although activations in chronic back pain patients’ and controls’ brains were similar, chronic back pain patients exhibited significantly less deactivations than healthy subjects in Pre-Frontal Cortex, amygdala, and Posterior Cingulate/Cuneate Cortexes.  The focus was on identifying differences in the way chronic back pain patients’ brains process information not related to pain. This is the first study demonstrating that chronic back pain patients exhibit severe alterations in the functional connectivity between brain regions implicated in the default mode network. It seems that enduring pain for a long time affects brain function in response to even minimally demanding attention tasks completely unrelated to pain. Furthermore, the fact that the observed task performance, compared with healthy subjects, is unaffected, whereas the brain activity is dramatically different, raises the question of how other behaviors are impaired by the altered brain activity” (pg. 1399).


“However, the disruption of functional connectivity observed here with increased chronic back pain duration may be related to the earlier observation of brain atrophy increasing with pain duration also in chronic back pain patients. Patient’s exhibit increased pre-frontal cortex activity in relation to spontaneous pain, in addition to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex atrophy. Therefore, the decreased deactivations described here may be related to the dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex /pre-frontal cortex mutual inhibitory interactions perturbed with time. If that is the case, it will support the idea of a plastic, time-dependent, reorganization of the brain as patients continue to suffer from chronic back pain. Mechanistically, the early stages of this cortical reorganization may be driven by peripheral and spinal cord events, such as those that have been documented in animal models of chronic pain, whereas later events may be related to coping strategies necessary for living with unrelenting pain. It is important to recognize that transient but repetitive functional alterations can lead to more permanent changes. Accordingly, long term interference with normal activity may eventually initiate plastic changes that could alter irreversibly the stability and subsequently the conformation of the resting state networks” (pg. 1401).


Essential Tremors which, according to Wikipedia


Essential tremor (ET, also referred to as benign tremor, familial tremor, or idiopathic tremor) is the most common movement disorder; its cause is unknown. It typically involves a tremor of the arms, hands or fingers but sometimes involving the head, vocal cords or other body parts during voluntary movements such as eating and writing.[1] It is distinct from Parkinson's disease—and often misdiagnosed as such—although some individuals have both conditions. Essential tremor is commonly described as an action tremor (i.e., it intensifies when one tries to use the affected muscles) or postural tremor (i.e., present with sustained muscle tone) rather than a resting tremor, such as is seen in Parkinson’s, which is usually not included among its symptoms. (


Restuccia, Valeriani, Barba, Le Pera, Bentivoglio, Albanese and Tonali (2003) reported:


...our present data seem to indicate that somatomotor cortical areas play an important role in generating ET. This finding can be important in the future understanding of its pathophysiologic mechanisms, as well as in its management. (pg. 127)


This study suggests that somatosensory cortical areas plays an important role, therefore the afferents “feeding” that region is critical in normalizing function of the cortex a that region. Another negative sequela of aberrant input.

When we consider one potential etiology of maladaptive plastic changes in the brain that can cause chronic pain, essential tremors, brain shrinkage and a host of other maladies, regulatory control of the impulses must be considered and interfered with. The lack of gating (inhibition) will lead to an overflow of impulses and crate a negative cascade that can lead to chronic and often permanent changes. Haavik, Niazi, Holt and Murphy (2017) reported:


Thus, distorted sensory information is thought to disturb SMI (sensorimotor integration) and impair accurate motor control. In normal circumstances, 2 inputs that engage the sensory system have a reciprocally inhibitory action that gates the total amount of signal at all central levels, spatially and temporally limiting the amount of input engaging the CNS. This is thought to prevent sensory “overflow.” The defective gating may cause an input-output mismatch in specific motor programs, and such mismatches in motor programs may in themselves lead to production of distorted sensory information and issue of less than ideal motor commands. In this way, the chronicity of the problem can be maintained via a self-perpetuating mechanism. The reduced frontal N30 SEP (somatosensory evoked potential) peak ratio observed in the current study after 12 weeks of chiropractic care may reflect a normalization of pain-induced central maladaptive plastic changes and may reflect one mechanism for the improvement of functional ability reported following chiropractic adjustment or manipulation. (pg. 134)


The N30 ratio change represented on average a 37.4% decrease following the 12 weeks of chiropractic care. The N30 MU (median-ulnar) amplitude changes following chiropractic care represented an 18.0% decrease in amplitude compared with baseline (pg. 131) Alongside this change in the N30 SEP ratio, the subjects reported a decrease in both current pain and average pain over the last week. A control period of 2 weeks of no intervention resulted in no significant changes in any SEP peak ratio. (pg. 134)


When considering care paths for this population of patients, the following was reported by Haavik, Niazi, Holt and Murphy (2017) reported:


The 2-week control period, during which no intervention was applied, was followed by a 12-week chiropractic care intervention. During the 12 weeks of chiropractic care, the chiropractor assessed and treated the subject as she would any other chronic pain patient. The participating chiropractor (H.H., with 7 years clinical experience) assessed the spine for segmental dysfunction using tenderness on palpation and passive intervertebral and global motion of the spine. Other treatments included as part of chiropractic care were exercises, peripheral joint adjustments/manipulations, soft tissue therapy, and pain education if deemed by the chiropractor to be appropriate based on history and examination. The chiropractic adjustment/manipulation was the delivery of a high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust to dysfunctional spinal segments. (pgs. 129-130)


The changes observed conclude (with the aforementioned disclaimer that more research is needed) that chiropractic is a verifiable treatment option. Haavik, Niazi, Holt and Murphy (2017) continued:


The changes observed in dual SEP ratios after several weeks of chiropractic care in a chronic pain population suggest that this treatment option may improve gating of peripheral afferent input to the brain, thus improving impaired SMI in cortical motor areas and improving processing of motor programs. Impaired SMI and defective motor programming is known to be present in various chronic pain populations and is implicated in the clinical symptomatology. We know from the literature that in normal circumstances, afferent input to the motor system leads to finely tuned activation of neural elements and ultimately results in the correct execution of movement. Multiple experimental and clinical studies have confirmed the importance of sensory feedback to the motor system. Thus, distorted sensory information is thought to disturb SMI and impair accurate motor control. In normal circumstances, 2 inputs that engage the sensory system have a reciprocally inhibitory action that gates the total amount of signal at all central levels, spatially and temporally limiting the amount of input engaging the CNS. This is thought to prevent sensory “overflow.” The defective gating may cause an input-output mismatch in specific motor programs, and such mismatches in motor programs may in themselves lead to production of distorted sensory information and issue of less than ideal motor commands. In this way, the chronicity of the problem can be maintained via a self-perpetuating mechanism. The reduced frontal N30 SEP peak ratio observed in the current study after 12 weeks of chiropractic care may reflect a normalization of pain-induced central maladaptive plastic changes and may reflect one mechanism for the improvement of functional ability reported following chiropractic adjustment or manipulation. (pgs. 134-135)


Haavik, Niazi, Holt and Murphy (2017) concluded:


After the 12 weeks of chiropractic care, when he was also feeling better symptomatically, this was reversed, and all of his MU traces for all SEP peak complexes were smaller in amplitude than his M + U trace, indicating a greater level of central reciprocal inhibition was occurring… Thus, if sensory “overflow” occurs, then incomplete processing of this incoming signal may occur in the brain, resulting in its perceiving not only excessive, but also spatially distorted information. (pg. 135)


The N9 SEP peak (the “N” is a location for electrodes) reflects the afferent signal over the brachial plexus before it enters the CNS, and thus can be used to ensure that the incoming signal is consistent before and after an intervention. Furthermore, these experiments demonstrated that the subjects' N30 SEP peak ratios decreased significantly after a single chiropractic manipulation of the cervical spine. As the N30 SEP peak is thought to reflect early cortical SMI, the authors argued that their results suggest that the subject's SMI networks' ability to suppress the dual input after the adjustment was increased. The N30 SEP peak ratios remained decreased even after repeating the 20-minute repetitive thumb abduction task. This suggested that the treatment effects appear to have altered the way in which each subject's CNS responded to the repetitive thumb typing task.


When considering treating chronic pain, dystonia, essential tremor or any other type of patient where there are spatial (distorted or excessive afferent) input issues, the above care path (treatment plan) should be considered. By not completed a complete treatment protocol might expose your patient to a chronic issue that may become permanent if the maladaptive cortical changes persist over time. Since there are no timetables for how long a patient can withstand for the issue to become permanent and there is an indexed peer reviewed suggestion of correction, that must be adhered as a minimum until further evidence suggests otherwise. In addition, no two patients are alike and the treatment plan should be guided with a full clinical reevaluation and consider performing that examination every 30 days of active care considering all facets, both history and clinical.




  1. Haavik, H., Niazi, I. K., Holt, K., & Murphy, B. (2017). Effects of 12 Weeks of Chiropractic Care on Central Integration of Dual Somatosensory Input in Chronic Pain Patients: A Preliminary Study. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics40(3), 127-138.
  2. Restuccia, D., Valeriani, M., Barba, C., Le Pera, D., Bentivoglio, A., Albanese, A. & Tonali, P. (2003). Abnormal gating of somatosensory inputs in essential tremor. Clinical neurophysiology114(1), 120-129.
  3. Baliki N., Geha P., Apkarian A., Chialvo D., (2008) Beyond Feeling: Chronic Pain Hurts the Brain, disrupting the Default-Mode Network Dynamics, Journal of Neurosciences 28(6) 1398-1403
  4. Essential Tremor (2017) retrieved from:

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Published in Neck Problems

Chronic Pain and Chiropractic:

A 12-Week Solution & Necessity for Care


By Mark Studin

William J. Owens

A report on the scientific literature and commentary 



How long should a patient be under chiropractic care? This has been the struggle for many in the insurance industry, the legal community, licensure boards and a “hot topic” politically. There are the CCGPP [Council on Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters], the Croft Guidelines, Best Practice for Chiropractic Care for Older Adults, Best Practices Recommendations for Chiropractic Care for Infants, Children and Adolescents, Chiropractic Practice Guidelines: Chiropractic Care for Low Back Pain. These are just some of the chiropractic industry’s guidelines, then you must consider the insurance industry’s care paths where most are hidden behind statements like “medical necessity” and “eligible charges.” Those are “buzz phrases” indicating they have a guideline, but most will neither publish or make them available to the providers, their insured or the public claiming proprietary information giving them a legal basis for the secrecy.



Aetna, as an example lists specifics for care and then goes further to limit a significant number of techniques, procedures and diagnostics claiming they are “experimental.” Although Medicare considers chiropractic a covered service they limit treatment arbitrarily according based upon significant feedback from many in the profession.  Workers Compensation Boards have guidelines that are either legislated or created based upon a case law judge’s opinion which include arguments from the defense to support limiting care.  At best, that is an arbitrary process based upon rhetoric or legislation that is too often ignorant of the scientific literature resulting in serious imposed limits in scope of treatment as we see in California, New York and many other states.



Although the guideline landscape is expansive, these authors choose to rely on a hybrid of both “Best Practice” and “Evidenced Based” method in the development of treatment plans. Both have a strong place in clinical practice, academic settings, the courts and third-party reimbursement systems.


Best Practice is defined as “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 businessbuzzword, used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use" (Best Practice, wiki/Best practice).


These are certain procedures in healthcare that are taught in schools, internships and residencies and are considered the “standard” by which care is expected to follow. These practices are based on clinical experience and rely heavily on time-tested approaches, that is how a profession evolves and grows.  Surprisingly, most of the best medical practice care paths are not published in the peer-reviewed indexed literature. This is due to many factors, but the most obvious are applications of financial resources and grants to “new” discoveries and the simple fact that the clinical arena is well positioned to monitor and adjust these practices in a timely manner allowing practitioners to keep pace with the literature that follows. In recent times, although it has been talked about for decades, there is another parameter that exists and although focuses on best practices, there is a strong reliance on published studies, aka “evidence”, as the main driver of whether a procedure is approved and reimbursed. This is extremely problematic to healthcare outcomes.

Evidence-based practice(EBP) is an interdisciplinary approach to clinical practice that has been gaining ground following its formal introduction in 1992. It started inmedicineasevidence-based medicine (EBM) and spread to other fields such as dentistry, nursing, psychology,

education, library and information science and other fields. Its basic principles are that all practical decisions made should be based on three important criteria.  First, they must be based on the practicing provider’s clinical experience, secondly, they should be based on published research studies and thirdly should consider the patients expectations.


"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,


This highly-debated topic of evidence-based vs. best practice has valid issues on each side, but putting them together as a hybrid would allow them to thrive in both a healthcare delivery and reimbursement system; therefore, all sides would win. This would allow advances in healthcare to save more lives, increase the quality of life and at the same time, offer enough safeguards to prevent abuse to payors. A one-sided approach would tip the scales to favor either the provider/patients or the payors which, in the end, results in distrust and conflict.

Evidence-based medicine proponents argue that it would eliminate waste and reduce costs while providing patients with the most up-to-date care available. Those against this concept argue that reliance on evidence-based care would eliminate many procedures that fall under the best medical practice parameters and remove the clinical decision making and professional experience from the equation. They feel what would be left is denial of good therapies and the stifling of innovation since the process of establishing a research study, following its participants and publishing those findings can take many years not to mention poor study design or research bias can have both a profound effect on the evidence provided and severely delay the final publication. This delay would eventually cost either lives or severely diminish the quality of life for those who could have been helped during the research and publication processes.

Haavik, Niazi, Holt and Murphy (2017) reported:


Post hoc tests using the Bonferroni correction revealed significant mean differences in N30 MU amp (P = .049) and N30 MU to M + U ratio data (P = .001) during the chiropractic intervention, but no significant changes were observed during the control period (P = .1 for N30 MU amp and P = .3 for N30 MU to M + U ratio data). The effect size for the change in N30 MU amp was 0.61, and for the N30 MU to M + U ratio it was 0.66. The N30 ratio change represented on average a 37.4% decrease following the 12 weeks of chiropractic care. The N30 MU amplitude changes following chiropractic care represented an 18.0% decrease in amplitude compared with baseline. (Pg 131)


These results were based upon a limited study, but validates that a chiropractic spinal adjustment modulated aberrant afferent input by 37.4% in median and ulnar nerve rations and 18% in median and ulnar nerve amplitudes.


The authors went on to report:


The purpose of this preliminary study was to assess whether the dual SEP technique is sensitive enough to measure changes in cortical intrinsic inhibitory interactions in patients with chronic neck pain after a 12-week period of chiropractic care and, if so, whether any such changes related to changes in symptomatology. (pg. 128)


This was tested to determine if inhibitory innervation was affected specifically by a chiropractic spinal adjustment and the outcomes conclusively, against a 2-week control period of the same test subjects confirmed these results.

Haavik, Niazi, Holt and Murphy (2017) went on to describe the 12 weeks of chiropractic care that realized these results:


The chiropractic care plan was pragmatic and generally consisted of 2 to 3 visits per week for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Frequency was reduced based on clinical findings and patient symptomatology. By the end of the 12-week period, participants were seen once or twice a week. No requirements were placed on the treating chiropractor, other than including chiropractic adjustment or manipulation during treatment; thus, the care plan was designed in conjunction with patient preferences and was based on the patients’ history, symptoms, wishes, and time availability as well as the clinician’s clinical experience and knowledge. (pg. 130)


Although the length of care in this study does not render a specific guideline, it does validate that it takes time to realize changes in the mechanics of the spine and the human nervous system.  The results are consistent with the “Best Practice Model” and the authors 57 years of combined experience and results. Twelve weeks of care is a conservative and reasonable time frame since we are observing and considering that cerebral neuroplastic changes are a direct and verifiable result of a chiropractic spinal adjustment. Less than 12 weeks of chiropractic spinal adjusting has not been evidenced to make these reported changes, therefore we must consider this threshold for care.Concurrently, what we see is that less treatment time does not allow the connective tissue to help the spine as one contiguous organ system to remodel to a homeostatic state (a conversation for a different paper).


Chiropractic care for chronic pain patients requires a both a combination of Best Practice and Evidenced Based models as the literature is now verifying that a chiropractic spinal adjustment is an effective care path and 12 weeks is a minimum to see neuroplastic changes.  Clinically speaking however, to confirm the optimum care path for this particular population of patients, continuation of care should be based on re-evaluations every 30-days and should continue as clinical sign and symptoms persist and there is evidence that the patient is benefiting both in the short and long term.   Additionally, no significant improvement over the first 12 weeks should be considered acceptable as neuroplastic changes are a process. Although these authors have rarely personally experienced a lack of significant neuro-biomechanical changes over that time period, it is a clinical decision that must be derived by the treating provider in a “Best Practice Model” and not a 3rd party.



  1. Aetna Chiropractic Services (2017) Retrieved from:
  3. Best Practice. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from
  4. Evidence-Based Practice. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from
  5. Sackett, D. L., Rosenberg, W. M., Gray, J. A., Haynes, R. B., & Richardson, W. S. (1996) Evidence based medicine: What it is and what it isn't. British Medical Journal, 312(7023), 71-72.
  6. Haavik, H., Niazi, I. K., Holt, K., & Murphy, B. (2017). Effects of 12 Weeks of Chiropractic Care on Central Integration of Dual Somatosensory Input in Chronic Pain Patients: A Preliminary Study. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics40(3), 127-138.

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Published in Neck Problems

The Mechanism of the Chiropractic

Spinal Adjustment/Manipulation:

Subluxation Degeneration


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. Spine36(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 

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 

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




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