The Chiropractic Adjustment Changes Brain Function
The Evidence of Increased Muscle Strength is Added to Pain Sensitivity and Autonomic Changes
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
Matt Erickson DC, FSBT
A report on the scientific literature
There is a growing body of evidence that a high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) chiropractic spinal adjustment (CSA) has a significant influence on cortical (brain) and other central (cord) changes. This is significant as the evidence is now answering more questions on why has chiropractic has had such a profound effect on a myriad of conditions beyond back pain. Technology, including but not limited to functional MRI, NCV, EEG and sEMG renders demonstrable validation of the effect the chiropractic spinal adjustment has on changes in central function.
A chiropractic spinal manipulation/adjustment is a specific HVLA thrust maneuver designed to correct spinal patho-neuro-biomechanics (remove nerve irritation/interference, restore biomechanical balance), increases important proteins such as Substance P (Evans 2002) and makes plastic changes to the central nervous system. Conversely, a spinal manipulation as manual therapy or thrust joint manipulation (TJM) performed by physical therapists (PT’s) is a generalized non-specific low-velocity, low-amplitude of non-specific HVLA thrust maneuver of joints and connective tissue to improve motion and decrease muscle tension.
Essentially, the intent of TJM is in treating pain and dysfunction. That is not to say a non-specific manipulation will not help a patient. However, when spinal manipulation is not performed as a chiropractic based neuro-biomechanical corrective adjustment or from a salutogenic health management perspective, it is something else entirely. Therefore, spinal manipulation as a chiropractic adjustment delivered by a chiropractor is not synonymous with TJM, mobilization or spinal manipulation delivered by a PT.
Reed, Pickar, Sozio, and Long (2014) reported, “.forms of manual therapy have been clinically shown to increase mechanical pressure pain thresholds (i.e., decrease sensitivity) in both symptomatic and asymptomatic subjects. Cervical spinal manipulation (chiropractic HVLA) has been shown to result in unilateral as well as bilateral mechanical hypoalgesia. Compared with no manual therapy, oscillatory spinal manual therapy at T12 and L4 produced significantly higher paraspinal pain thresholds at T6, L1, and L3 in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. The immediate and widespread hypoalgesia associated with manual therapy treatments has been attributed to alterations in peripheral and/or central pain processing including activation of descending pain inhibitory systems. Increasing evidence from animal models suggests that manual therapy activates the central nervous system and, in so doing, affects areas well beyond those being treated. (p. 277)
Reed et al. (2014) also reported, The finding that only the higher intensity manipulative stimulus (ie, 85% BW [body weight] vs 55% BW or control) decreased the mechanical sensitivity of lateral thalamic neurons to mechanical trunk stimulation coincides with other reports relating graded mechanical or electrical stimulus intensity to the magnitude of central inhibition. Several clinical studies indicate that spinal manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment] alters central processing of mechanical stimuli evidenced by increased pressure pain thresholds and decreased pain sensitivity in asymptomatic and symptomatic subjects following manipulation. (p. 282)
Daligadu, Haavik, Yielder, Baarbe, and Murphy (2013) reported, There is also evidence in the literature to suggest that muscle impairment occurs early in the history of onset of spinal complaints, and that such muscle impairment does not automatically resolve even when pain symptoms improve. This has led some authors to suggest that the deficits in proprioception and motor control, rather than the pain itself, may be the main factors defining the clinical picture and chronicity of various chronic pain conditions. Furthermore, recent evidence has demonstrated that spinal manipulation (CSA) can alter neuromuscular and proprioceptive function in patients with neck and back pain as well as in asymptomatic participants. For instance, cervical spine manipulation (CSA) has been shown to produce greater changes in pressure pain threshold in lateral epicondylalgia than thoracic manipulation; and in asymptomatic patients, lumbar spine manipulation (CSA) was found to significantly influence corticospinal and spinal reflex excitability. Interestingly, Soon et al did not find neurophysiological changes following mobilization on motor function and pressure pain threshold in asymptomatic individuals, perhaps suggesting that manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustments], as distinct from mobilization, induces unique physiological changes. There is also accumulating evidence to suggest that chiropractic manipulation can result in changes to central nervous system function including reflex excitability, cognitive processing, sensory processing, and motor output. There is also evidence in SCNP [sub-clinical neck pain] individuals that chiropractic manipulation alters cortical somatosensory processing and elbow joint position sense. This evidence suggests that chiropractic manipulation may have a positive neuromodulatory effect on the central nervous system, and this may play a role in the effect it has in the treatment of neck pain. It is hoped improving our understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms that may precede the development of chronic neck pain in individuals with sub-clinical neck pain (SCNP) will help provide a neurophysiological marker of altered sensory processing that could help determine if an individual is showing evidence of disordered sensorimotor integration and thus might benefit from early intervention to prevent the progression of SCNP into more long-term pain states. (p. 528)
Christriansen, Niazi, Holt, Nedergaard, Duehr, Allen, Marshall, Turker and Haarvik (2018) discussed the effects of a single session of a chiropractic spinal manipulation (CSA) on strength and cortical drive. They studied the effects upwards of 60 minutes and further testing is needed to determine the long-term effects of the adjustment. They found in “blinded studies” that “the increased maximum voluntary contraction force lasted for 30 min and the corticospinal excitability increase persisted for at least 60 minutes.” (pg. 737)
Christiansen et. Al (2018) also reported, “The increased V-wave amplitudes observed in the current study possibly reflect an increased cortical drive in the corticospinal pathways and corresponding increased excitability of the MNs following SM found differences in the cortical drive in volleyball athletes competing at different levels, and argued that elite players had increased cortical drive correlating to their biomechanical performance. The absence of change in the H-reflex in the presence of the increased MVC along with increased V-waves suggests that it's possible that the change post manipulation occurred at supraspinal centers involving a cortical neural drive. The V-waves represent cortical drive. The absence of change in the H-reflex alone suggests that the spinal motor neurons and the excitability of the spindle primary afferent synapses on the spinal motor neurons did not change as a result of SM.” (pg. 745) The above paragraph indicates there is no input at the cord level as the H-Reflex exhibited no changes.
Increased motor function for a minimum of 60 minutes post-chiropractic spinal adjustment has far-reaching manifestations for a dichotomy of the population. Athletes at every level will benefit from increased motor function and patients suffering from either muscular or neuro-degenerative illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Muscular Dystrophy and others will also potentially benefit. Although this article touched on PT manual therapy, low-velocity, low-amplitude or non-specific thrust joint manipulation; these forms of treatment do not render the outcomes a chiropractic spinal adjustment.
Christiansen et. Al (2018) concluded and perfectly positioned the effect of a chiropractic spinal adjustment and the effect on the brain, “this study supports a growing body of research that suggests chiropractic spinal manipulation’s main effect is neuroplastic in nature and affects corticospinal excitability. Changes in both cerebellum and prefrontal cortex function have been implicated post-spinal manipulation in previous research studies. The presence of mild, recurrent spinal dysfunction has been shown to be associated with maladaptive neural plastic changes, such as alterations in elbow joint position sense mental rotation ability, and even multisensory integration Furthermore, spinal manipulation of dysfunctional spinal segments has been shown to impact somatosensory processing, sensorimotor integration and motor control.” (pg. 746)
Chiropractic Improves Neck Pain in a Military Veteran Population & Lowers the Need for Opiates
By Mark Studin
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.
CASE REPORT: Conservative care and axial distraction therapy for the management of cervical and lumbar disc herniations and ligament laxity post motor vehicle collision.
By Josh Johnston, DC
Title: Conservative care and axial distraction therapy for the management of cervical and lumbar disc herniations and ligament laxity post motor vehicle collision.
Abstract: This middle-aged female was injured in a vehicle collision causing her to sustain disc and additional ligament injuries in the cervical and lumbar spine. Diagnostic studies included physical examination, orthopedic and neurological testing, lumbar MRI, multiple cervical MRI’s, CRMA with motion cervical radiographs and EMG studies. Typically, conservative care is initiated prior to interventional procedures, and this case study seeks to explore the usage of passive therapy for mechanical spine pain and noted anatomic disc lesions after failure of interventional procedures. She reported both short term and long term success regarding pain reduction along with improvement in her activities of daily living after initiating conservative care, and continued to report further reductions in pain with periodic pain management using conservative care.
Key Words: neck pain, low back pain, paresthesia, disc herniation, spinal cord indentation, CRMA, axial distraction therapy, DRX9000, spinal manipulative therapy, motor vehicle collision
Key: MRI (magnetic resonance imaging); EMG (electromyography study); CRMA (computerized radiographic mensuration analysis); CT (computerized topography); PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder); PRN (as needed); VAS (visual analog scale); HVLA (high velocity low amplitude).
Introduction: The 49-year-old married female (Spanish speaking patient) reported that on March 4th, 2014 she was the seat-belted driver of a truck that was struck by a much larger fuel truck changing lines, hitting her vehicle at the front passenger side (far side, side impact). The force of the impact caused her truck to be lifted up and the right wheel popped off. Her head hit the window after impact and the spinal pain and complaints started approximately 24 hours later. Two days after the crash she went to the emergency department. Occupant pictures were taken describing an out of position occupant injury. She did not report any additional significant trauma after the collision.
Prior to her evaluation at our clinic, she utilized multiple providers for diagnosis and treatment over the course of 11 months. She went to the emergency department, utilized 3 pain management medical doctors, neuropsychologist and a cognitive rehabilitation therapist. Imaging included radiographs and MRI of the right shoulder revealing rotator cuff tear; radiographs of the lumbar and thoracic spine, and left hand; CT of the head and cervical spine were performed; MRI cervical (3) and lumbar spine. Medications prescribed included Fentanyl, Percocet, Naprosyn, Cyclobenzaprine, Norco, Hydrocodone-acetaminophen, Soma, and Carisoprodol. Physical therapy was provided for spinal injuries and she did not respond to treatment. The neurosurgeon recommended epidural steroid injections and facet blocks. Cervical nerve blocks and cervical trigger point injections, cervical and lumbar epidural steroid injections (ESI), lateral epicondyle steroid injections were performed, none of which were palliative. Post-concussion disorder and PTSD with major depressive disorder were diagnosed.
On February 12th, 2015, she presented to our office with neck pain (average 6/10 VAS) that affected her vision, with paresthesia’s in both upper extremities radiating to the hands with numbness. She had low back pain (average 6/10 VAS), and she additionally reported paresthesia at the plantar surface of feet bilaterally. She had left elbow pain, right shoulder pain, knee pain, headaches and “anxiety” along with anterior sternal pain.
Her injuries were causing significant problems with her activities of daily living. Summarily she had increased pain with lifting, increased pain and restricted movement with bending, walking and carrying. She had been unable to perform any significant physical activity from the time of the crash in March 2014 until March 2015. Her right hand was always hurting and her forearms. She was not able to clean windows or do laundry, difficulty using stairs, problems with mopping, ironing and cleaning. She had to limit her walking and jogging primarily due to neck pain and right arm pain. She was not able to sit for long periods of time and sleeping was disrupted due to numbness in her hands. She was only able to walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes before having to stop due to pain, prior to the crash she would exercise for an hour.
Prior History: No significant prior musculoskeletal or contributory medical history was reported.
Clinical Findings (2/12/15): She had a height of 5’2”, measured weight of 127 lbs.
Visual analysis of the cervical spine revealed pain in multiple ranges of motion including flexion, extension, bilateral rotation and bilateral side bending. On extension pain was noted in the upper back, on rotation pain was noted in the posterior neck, and on lateral flexion pain was noted contralaterally.
Visual analysis of the lumbar spine revealed pain in the low back on all active ranges of motion, including flexion, extension and side bending, pain primarily at L5/S1.
Dual inclinometer testing was ordered based on visual active range of motion limitations with pain.
Sensory testing was performed of the extremities, C5-T1 and L4-S1. No neurological deficits other than right sided C5 hypoesthesia.
Foraminal compression test produced pain in the cervical spine. Foraminal distraction test caused an increase in pain in the neck. Jackson’s test on the right produced pain bilaterally in the neck. Straight leg raise bilaterally produced low back pain, double Straight leg raise produce pain at L5/S1 at 30 degrees.
Muscle testing of the upper extremities was tested at a 5/5 with the exception of deltoid bilaterally tested at a 4/5. The patient’s deep tendon reflexes of the upper and lower extremities were tested including Triceps, Biceps, Brachioradialis, Patella, Achilles: all were tested at 2+ bilaterally, equal and reactive. No evidence of clonus of the feet and Hoffman’s test was unremarkable.
C3-C5 right sided segmental dysfunction was noted on palpation. T5-T12 spinous process tenderness on palpation. Low back pain on palpation, particularly L5/S1.
I reviewed the cervical MRI images taken May 2014 with the following conclusions (images attached):
Fig. 1 (A) T2 Axial C5/6, 2 months post injury Fig. 1 (B) Sag T2 C5/6
I reviewed cervical MRI images taken September 17th, 2014 approximately 6-months post injury, and rendered the following conclusions:
I reviewed the cervical MRI dated October 24th, 2015 (images attached):
Fig. 2 (A) 3D Axial C4/5, 19 months post injury Fig. 2 (B) Sag T2 C4/5
IMPRESSIONS: C4/5 herniation noted on 10/24/15 was not noted on prior images. The patient reported no additional injury or symptoms between MRI studies, so it is postulated that initial slices revealed a false negative; or due to the severity of abnormal cervical biomechanics, it is possible that the C4/5 disc herniated between the pre/post MRI’s with no significant increase in symptomatology. There was improvement at C5/6 related to disc abnormality and cord involvement (see below).
Fig. 3 (A) 3D Axial C5/6, 19 months post injury Fig. 3 (B) Sag T2 C5/6, 19 months post injury
Functional Radiographic Analysis (Computerized Radiograph Mensuration Analysis):
The cervical flexion/extension images were digitized February 2016 and interpreted by myself and Robert Peyster MD, CAQ Neuroradiology, revealing a loss of Angular Motion Segment Integrity at intersegment C6/C7 measured at 19.7 degrees (maximum allowed 11 degrees), indicating a 25% whole person impairment according to the AMA Evaluation of Permanent Impairment Guidelines 5th edition1. CRMA provided from Spine Metrics, independent analysis.
Evidence of significant ligament injury causing functional subfailure was measured at C3/4 at 10.4 degrees and at C4/5 measuring 10.9 degrees regarding angular motion. Abnormal paradoxical translation motion measured at C6/7 and C7/T1.
Initial Max 4 months later % Improvement
Cervical Extension 44 42 -5%
Flexion 40 62 55%
Cervical Left 25 41 64%
Lateral flexion Right 12 26 117%
Cervical Left 46 59 28%
Rotation Right 43 73 70%
Conservative treatment rendered: A neurosurgical referral was made for assessment and surgical options. Conservative care was initiated despite failure of other medical procedures since there is “further evidence that chiropractic is an effective treatment for chronic whiplash symptoms”2-3. The patient was placed on an initial care plan of 2-3x/week for 5 months, with a gap in passive care for 1 month.
Prior to being placed at maximum medical improvement she had persistent low back symptoms, continued tingling in the fingertips and occasional neck pain at a 4/10, with her upper extremity paresthesia’s improved 50%. She continued with pain management chiropractic care after MMI, approximately 1 visit every 3-4 weeks with axial distraction to the cervical and lumbar spine, chiropractic adjustments as needed (PRN). 2 years/9 months post collision, and 1 year/9 months after initiating conservative care at our clinic, she reports only slight (1-2/10 VAS) spinal complaints with her primary concern being a torn rotator cuff injury from the crash that still requires surgical intervention. After initiating care at our clinic, no other interventional procedures were performed, although medication usage persisted. Due to improvement in symptoms and functional status, spinal surgery was not considered. She still utilizes Aleve PRN, 1-2 tablets. No significant active spinal rehabilitation was utilized. The patient was given at home active care consisting only of cervical and lumbar stretches, walking, and ice to affected areas.
Competing Interest: There are no competing interests in the writing of this case report.
De-Identification: All of the patient’s data has been removed from this case.
Spinal Fusion vs. Chiropractic for Mechanical Spine Pain
By. Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
A report on the scientific literature
As Chien and Bajwa (2008) pointed out, one of the most common maladies in our society today is back pain and 97% of the time, the pain is considered mechanical back pain. That is pain that arises from things other than fractures, tumors or infection and is one of the leading causes of visits to primary care medical doctors. Peterson, Bolton and Humphreys (2012), Baliki, Geha, Apkarian, and Chialvo (2008), and Apkarian et al. (2004) all agreed that at any given time, upwards of 10% of the population suffers from back pain and upwards of 80% of those back pain sufferers have chronic problems. For pain to be considered chronic, it must persist for greater than 6 months.
Mulholland reported (2008)
The cause and hence the best treatment of “mechanical” low back pain remains unsolved, despite nearly a century of endeavour. It is now generally accepted that some form of failure of the intervertebral disc is central to causation. In the latter half of the twentieth century, failure of the disc leading to abnormal movement, popularly called instability, legitimised the use of fusion as treatment. However, the unpredictable results of fusion, which did not improve despite progressively more rigid methods of fusion cast doubts on the concept that back pain was movement related and that stopping movement was central to its treatment. (Pg. 619)
The only reason for fusion appeared to be that, other treatments had failed, that it was reasonable from the psychological viewpoint, and that instability was present. Instability is defined elsewhere in the book as increased abnormal movement, and this is illustrated by x-rays purporting to show abnormal rotations and various types of abnormal tilt. He accepts that such appearances may be entirely painless, but in the patient with back pain they identify the causative level, and fusion is justified. (Pg. 620)
However, whilst that fusion may be very effective in stopping movement, it was deficient in relation to load transfer. (pg. 623)
The reason load transfer is critical to normal spinal biomechanics (function) is one of remodelling and the prevention of premature and unnecessary advanced arthritic changes. Based upon Wolff’s Law, with abnormal load, the entire joint will remodel in the body’s innate goal of creating homeostasis from a structural perspective.
In support of the above consideration, Mulholland concluded:
Abnormal movement of a degenerated segment may be associated with back pain but is not causative. The concept of instability as a cause of back pain is a myth. The clinical results of any procedure that allows abnormal disc loading to continue are unpredictable.
If it is accepted that load transfer disturbance is the central issue in mechanical back pain, then treatment can be directed to remedy this. Fusion will only do this if it reliably takes over the loading function of the disc. Movement preserving procedures such as “flexible stabilization” or an artificial disc are compatible with preserving motion but with an artificial disc bony integration between plate and vertebrae would appear to be essential, not just to stop movement, but to transfer load normally. (pg. 624)
It was reported by McMorland, Suter, Casha, du Plessis, and Hurlbert in 2010 that approximately 250,000 patients annually undergo elective lumbar discectomy (spinal surgery) for the treatment of low back disc (mechanical spine) issues in the United States. The researchers did a comparative randomized clinical study comparing spinal microdiscectomy (surgery) performed by neurosurgeons to non-operative manipulative treatments (chiropractic adjustments) performed by chiropractors. They compared quality of life and disabilities of the patients in the study.
The study was limited to patients with distinct one-sided lumbar disc herniations as diagnosed via MRI and had associated radicular (nerve root) symptoms. Based upon the authors’ review of available MRI studies, the patients participating in the study were all initially considered surgical candidates. Both the surgical and chiropractic groups reported no new neurological problems and had only minor post-treatment soreness. 60% of the patients who underwent chiropractic care reported a successful outcome while 40% required surgery and of those 40%, all reported successful outcomes. This study concluded that 60% of the potential surgical candidates had positive outcomes utilizing chiropractic as the alternative to surgery.
Although the previous report concluded that a chiropractic spinal adjustment is an effective treatment modality for mechanical spine pathology, a more recent study by Leemann et al. (2014), further clarifies the improvement with chiropractic care. This study considered both herniated discs and radiculopathy or pain radiating down into the leg as a baseline for analysis. The study also considered acute and chronic lumbar herniated disc pain patients.
In this study, the acute onset patient (the pain just started) reported 80% improvement at 2 weeks, 85% improvement at 1 month, and a 95% improvement at 3 months. The study went on to conclude that the patient stabilized at both the six month and one year marks following the onset of the original pain. Although one might argue that the patient would have gotten better with no treatment, it was reported that after two weeks of no treatment, only 36% of the patients felt better and at 12 weeks, up to 73% felt better. This study clearly indicates that chiropractic is a far superior solution to doing nothing and at the same time helps the patient return to his/her normal life without pain, drugs or surgery.
Although the literature clearly indicates chiropractic as a superior choice for mechanical back pain for both disability and pain indicating function has normalized and that spinal fusion creates permanent abnormal load transfers leading to a higher risk of premature arthritis and spinal biomechanical failures, the consideration that was omitted in Mulholland’s paper was that of aberrant neurological sequella. The arbiter for surgery vs. chiropractic care that should be strongly considered is where the delay in surgery will possibly cause permanent neurological damage.
Clinically, regardless of the mechanical failure, (including, but not limited to disc extrusions both migrated and sequestered) and/or the presentation of exquisite pain, should the patient present with intact motor and sensory function upon examination, there is less consideration of adverse issues developing from chiropractic care that will take time in the rehabilitation process. However, if there is significant motor and/or sensory loss indicating compression or significant abutment of the cord or root, then delaying surgery can increase the risk of creating long-term neurological damage. In either scenario, while managing these types of patients, the chiropractor should consider co-managing with a spine surgeon who is versed in chiropractic care and contemporary literature that has objectified both treatment outcomes.
Chiropractic Care for Neck and Low Back Pain: Evidenced Based Outcomes
98.5% of chiropractic patients had their expectations exceeded
By: Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
A report on the scientific literature
As the scientific, academic and reimbursement establishments further entrench in an evidenced based model, it is critical to both examine and utilize studies when treating mechanical spine patients with chiropractic care. Although there are many sects in the chiropractic profession who shun the title “mechanical spine pain,” it is universally accepted term interprofessionally for any etiology of spine pain exclusive of tumor, fracture or infection. This definition fits every licensure board’s scope of practice for chiropractic where chiropractic is licensed.
In the United Kingdom, Field and Newell (2016) reported that back pain accounts for 4.8% of all social benefit claims with overall costs reaching $7 billion pounds or $9.35 billion US dollars. Boyles (2016) reported that “Researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, found that the nation's dramatic rise in expenditures for the diagnosis and treatment of back and neck problems has not led to expected improvements in patient health. Their study appears in the Feb. 13 issue ofThe Journal of the American Medical Association. After adjustment for inflation, total estimated medical costs associated with back and neck pain increased by 65% between 1997 and 2005, to about $86 billion a year… Yet during the same period, patients reported more disability from back and neck pain, including moredepressionand physical limitations.
“We did not observe improvements in health outcomes commensurate with the increasing costs over time," lead researcher Brook I. Martin, MPH, and colleagues wrote. "Spine problems may offer opportunities to reduce expenditures without associated worsening of clinical outcomes." (http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/news/20080212/86-billion-spent-on-back-neck-pain)
Although it has been widely reported that expenditures a decade later has far exceeded the 2005 figure, the opioid epidemic, in part from musculoskeletal etiology is another example WebMD’s reporting on the American Medical Association’s finding of increased disability from neck and back pain inclusive of depression and physical limitations. The variable therefore is not predicated on financial expenditures, but treatment paradigms that work and have been verified in an evidenced based environment.
Clinicians should always be striving to offer the best care at the lowest cost available. Carriers should always strive to fulfill their contractual obligation of providing necessary care delivered in a usual and customary manner while preventing overutilization through built-in safeguards. With doctors managing their patient’s conditions, there are two major parameters that are utilized, best medical practice also known as “experience” and evidence-based practice or that which has only been concluded in the medical literature. Both have a strong place in the healthcare delivery and reimbursement systems.
"A best practiceis 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. These are procedures in healthcare that are taught in schools, internships and residencies and are considered the “standard” by which procedures are followed. These practices are based on clinical experience and rely heavily on time-tested approaches. 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 to “new” discoveries and the simple fact that the clinical arena is adequate to monitor and adjust these practices in a timely manner for practice to keep up with the literature that follows.
Evidence-based practice(EBP) is an interdisciplinary approach to clinical practice that has gained 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 1) be based on research studies and 2) that these research studies are selected and interpreted according to some specific norms characteristic for EBP. Typically, such norms disregardtheoretical studiesandqualitative studiesand considerquantitative studiesaccording to a narrow set of criteria of what counts as evidence.
"Evidence-based behavioral practice(EBBP) entails making decisions about how to promote health or provide care by integrating the best available evidence with practitioner expertise and other resources, and with the characteristics, state, needs, values and preferences of those who will be affected. This is done in a manner that is compatible with the environmental and organizational context. Evidence is comprised of research findings derived from the systematic collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation of questions and testing of hypotheses" (Evidence-Based Practice, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_practice).
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; 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 either the provider/patients or the payors.
Fields and Newell (2016) studied 2 groups of patients, those treated in private practices and the second in the United Kingdom’s funded National Health Service clinics. For this report, I will focus on the Government funded National Health Service statistics. The evidence sought was the satisfaction of patients with both neck and low back pain who underwent chiropractic care and in this report it satisfies both paradigms of “Best Practice and Evidenced Based Practice” models. They reported that 98.5% of neck and low back pain “patients were more likely to have had their expectations exceeded” (pg. 57) under chiropractic care.
In a healthcare environment, where overspending is both not the solution and problematic by creating iatrogenic issues in the form of opioid addiction and unresolved biomechanical failures leading to premature long-term musculoskeletal degenerative Fields and Newell have simply asked the patients, have your needs been met or exceeded. Not to diminish studies on the why or how come, patient satisfaction in an evidenced based outcome study that verifies it works with a drug-free option.
As with many of our articles from here forward, I would like to leave you with a last and seemingly unrelated statement. I felt it was important to add this at the end since many of our critics negatively portray the safety of chiropractic care. This statement shall put that to rest leaving only personal biases left standing. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects and after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study, the total patient number accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified”(Whedon et al., 2015, p. 5). This study supersedes all the rhetoric about chiropractic and stroke and renders an outcome assessment to help guide the triage pattern of mechanical spine patients.
Chiropractic Can Prevent Absenteeism in the Workplace from Chronic Pain
A report on the scientific literature
By Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
According to Cady (2014) over 100 million Americans experience chronic pain with common painful conditions including back pain, neck pain, headaches/migraines, and arthritis, in addition to other painful conditions such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, etc...In a large study in 2010, 30.7% of over 27,000 U.S. respondents reported an experience of chronic, recurrent pain of at least a 6-month duration. Half of the respondents with chronic pain noted daily symptoms, with 32% characterizing their pain as severe (≥7 on a scale ranging from 0 to 10). Chronic pain has a broad impact on emotional well-being and health-related quality of life, sleep quality, and social/recreational function.
Peterson ET. AL. (2012) reported, “The … prevalence of low back pain is stated to be between 15% and 30%, the 1-year period prevalence between 15% and 45%, and a life-time prevalence of 50% to 80%” (pg. 525). Apkarian Et. Al. (2004) reported that “Ten percent of adults suffer from severe chronic pain. Back problems constitute 25% of all disabling occupational injuries and are the fifth most common reason for visits to the clinic; in 85% of such conditions, no definitive diagnosis can be made.” (pg. 10410) The reference to no definitive diagnosis is reflective of allopathy, or in common terms, the medical community.
In contrast, Peterson ET. AL. (2012) reported “investigate outcomes and prognostic factors in patients with acute or chronic low back pain (LBP) undergoing chiropractic treatment. In chronic LBP, recent studies indicate that significant improvement is often fairly rapid, usually by the fourth visit, and that patients initially receiving treatment 3 to 4 times a week have better outcomes. Patients with chronic and acute back pain both reported good outcomes, and most patients with radiculopathy (neurogenic) also improved” (pg. 525). “At 3 months, 69% of patients with chronic pain stated that they were either much better or better. This is unlikely to be due to the natural history of low back pain because these patients have already passed the period when natural history occurs “(pg. 531). As a note, this author has been caring for chronic back pain sufferers for 34 years and my personal observation is that 90%+ of all patients feel better and have significantly increased function in a short amount of time. However, for the purposes of this article, I will utilize the published 69%.
Cady (2014) wrote “In addition to the pervasive personal suffering associated with this disease, chronic pain has a substantial negative financial impact on the economy. Direct office visits, diagnostic testing, hospital care, and pharmacy costs are only a portion of the picture, with combined medical and pharmacy costs averaging $5,000 annually per individual (Pizzi, 2005). Chronic pain results in a significant economic burden on the healthcare system, with estimated costs ranging from $560 to $635 billion 2010 dollars, more than the annual cost of other priority health conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes (Gaskin & Richard, 2012). Moreover, the estimated annual costs of the workplace impact of pain range from $299 to $335 billion from absenteeism and reduced productivity (Gaskin & Richard, 2012).” (pg. 1-2)
We have already established that 10% of adults suffer from chronic pain and that back pain constitutes 25% of that population and chiropractic helps 69% of chronic sufferers. Therefore if 25% of all chronic pain is back pain and chiropractic helps 69%, then the numbers extrapolate as follows:
Economic burden on the healthcare system:
$560-$635 billion x 25% (back pain) = $140-$159 billion
$140-$159 billion x 69% (chiropractic helps) = $97-$110,000,000,000 (billion)
Absenteeism and Reduced Productivity Costs
$299-$335 billion x 25% (back pain) = $75-$84 billion
$75-$84 billion x 69% (chiropractic helps) = $52-$58,000,000,000 (billion)
We also know that chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified (Whedon et al., 2015, p. 5).
Unfortunately, the likelihood that a medical provider in any subspecialty will encounter chronic pain and its complications will only increase in the future as the population advances in age and body mass. In addition, based upon the statistics there needs no extrapolation as to who should be the primary spine care provider or first option to treat chronic back pain or any mechanical back pain (no fracture, tumor or infection). We have verified that allopathy (medical doctors) not being able to conclude a diagnosis 85% of the time, where chiropractic has verified diagnosis and solutions 69% (or my 90% +) in verified scientific outcomes.
The conclusions are not an indictment against medicine, it is a conclusion based upon science to put billions back into our economy while first helping those in chronic pain with a “best outcome” solution.
Neck Pain (Torticollis), Headaches, Dizziness, Radiating Pain, Nausea, Depression, Confusion, Ringing in the Ears Show Good Outcomes With Chiropractic Care
A report on the scientific literature
By: Marc D. Weiss, D.C., DAAMLP
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMPL
Although neck pain is the number one bodily injury or pain complaint from the general population in the west, many studies verify that chiropractic care for common neck pain has been effective. It has also been generally recognized that chiropractic care has helped a myriad of maladies and we are just starting to see those outcomes or positive results in the scientific literature to verify what both chiropractors and their patients have been reporting for over 100 years. The following study looks at outcomes of chiropractic treatment for neck pain and concurrent complaints throughout the Netherlands.
Rubenstein ET. Al (2007) used 79 chiropractors who each recruited approximately 10 patients. The patients were between the ages of 18-65 and had not received treatment 3 months prior to beginning this study. Participants who were treated for neck pain in this study all had different levels and frequency of visits with the chiropractor. Chiropractic spinal adjustments were the primary form of treatment. Each patient was asked a series of questions to assess their treatment success during each visit as well as during follow up appointments at 3 months and 12 months. Every symptom, including fatigue, headaches, nausea, and depression, significantly decreased from visit to visit, and significantly increased after the visits ceased.
This study covered a large area of patients with varying degrees and specifics of neck pain, as well as chiropractors with varying methods of treatment. Unlike many studies that gather data on effectiveness of treatments, especially pharmaceutical companies, this study showed statistics of both success in curing neck pain as well as adverse effects that arose during and after treatment. Only 5 of 4891 patients in the study group reported worsening of pain at the end of the study, which was 12 months after treatment. Also, only 2 of 4891 patients reported worsening of pain at the 3 month mark, which is when treatment for neck pain stopped.
The most prevalent improvement of neck pain in patients occurred during their first three visits. Additionally, most symptoms other than neck pain also improved during the first 3 months of treatment. Almost 50% of the patients were fully recovered when interviewed at their fourth visit. Almost 75% of the patients were fully recovered when interviewed at the three and twelve month follow up visits.
The following graph was presented by Rubenstein ET. Al (2007)
As you can see from the above graph, by the 2nd visit to a chiropractor, there has been significant improvement that continues to improve by the 4th visit. Although these patients initially sought care for neck pain, this study shows that many complaints respond favorably to chiropractic care and each complaint requires more independent research. The most impressive stastistic was 99.4% of people in the study would visit a chiropractor again at the 2nd visit and 98.7% at the 4th visit. That alone gives more insight than most other variables. If it wasn't successful, those numbers would not be there.
Chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration.Whedon et al. (2014) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded,“No mechanism by which SM (spinal manipulation) induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified.(Whedon et al.,2014, p. 5)
Cervical Disc Herniation with Radiculopathy (Arm Pain): Chiropractic Care vs. Injection Therapy
85.7% decrease in pain with spinal adjustments
25% decrease in pain with injection therapy
A report on the scientific literature
By: Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Mark C. Zientek, DC DAAMLP, CHCQM
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
There is a large portion of the population who are dealing with various pain syndromes which includes neck pain from cervical disc herniations. According to Peterson, Schmid, Leemann, Anklin, and Humphreys (2013), this occurs in 83.2 out of every 100,000 people where symptoms range from mild to severe, but all negatively affect a person’s quality of life. To improve one’s quality of life, it becomes necessary to choose ways to manage and alleviate pain while reducing the side-effects of the actual treatment. Common methods range from simple masking of symptoms with over-the-counter medications to prescription opiates and invasive surgeries. Most people look for ways to manage pain and return to daily living activities without risky procedures and their inherent complications.
The use of over-the-counter medications and narcotics such as codeine and/or an oxycodone-acetaminophen combination like Percocet, is a common form of treatment by many primary care physicians and medical specialists alike. Kuehn (2013) reported:
The announcement comes after growing calls for the agency to tighten restrictions on the use of these drugs. In July 2012, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP), a group that includes prominent specialists in addiction, public health, emergency medicine, and pain medicine, petitioned the FDA to change the labeling for this class of drugs to discourage inappropriate use (Kuehn BM.. 2012;308:1194-1196). The group argued that the drugs’ indications were overly broad and not consistent with the evidence base and may have been facilitating marketing for broader use than was appropriate. Specifically, the group argued that the agency should drop moderate chronic non-cancer pain as an indication, set a maximum daily dose, and add a maximum duration of use of 90 days. (p. 1547).
The problem, as acknowledged by the FDA, is that the AMA and many in medical academia appear to concur with the addictive qualities of the medications. The alternative option is the chiropractic spinal adjustment and it has been concluded in scientific outcomes to be a superior avenue for the relief of pain and reduction of disability with few side effects.
The earlier discussed study by Peterson et al. (2013) has confirmed that spinal adjustments (manipulations) provide significant improvement for patients with neck pain from cervical herniated discs, as well as arm pain (cervical radiculopathy) without the inclusion of opiates or surgery. In addition, this improvement was seen at all times, particularly at 3 months. In addition, in this Swiss study, it was found that the presence of radiating arm pain (radiculopathy) was not a contraindication to chiropractic treatment nor was it a negative forecaster of outcomes.
This study also found that with cervical herniated discs with radiculopathy, 85.7% of the patients experiencing acute pain reported significant improvement by three months with no patients being worse. For the sub-acute patients, 76.2% reported significant improvement by three months with no patients being worse with their disability indexes which were reduced from the onset of chiropractic care.
Another form of treatment for neck and arm pain commonly used is cervical spinal injections. In the same study compares cervical injection provided a 25% reduction in patients’ symptoms. The results of this current study of spinal adjustment (manipulation) treatments had substantially better results with more than 85% of acute patients and 76% of sub-acute patient improving, with a 65% reduction in arm pain as well as 59% reduction in neck pain at three months.
Chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration, particularly as a first line treatment. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury in normal healthy tissues has been identified” (Whedon et al., 2015, p. 265). One risk factor for chiropractic care is a disc herniation. A properly credentialed chiropractor who has been trained to differentially diagnose and appropriately triage the patient is clinically indicated in this population of patients. The chiropractor can engage in co-management with medical specialists.
To best serve patients, a clear understanding of the outcomes and risks of procedures becomes necessary. Further research into the efficacy of chiropractic manipulation provides a clearly safe and effective treatment to the above-referenced condition. Examination of the research provides insight of avenues for relief of symptoms upon which physicians can undoubtedly rely.
1. Peterson, C. K., Schmid, C., Leemann, S., Anklin, B., & Humphreys, B. K. (2013). Outcomes from magnetic resonance imaging–confirmed symptomatic cervical disk herniation patients treated with high-velocity, low-amplitude spinal manipulative therapy: A prospective cohort study with 3-month follow-up. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 36(8), 461-467
2. Kuehn, B. M. (2013). FDA tightens indications for using long-acting and extended-release opioids to treat chronic pain., 310(15), 1547-1548.
3. Whedon, J. M., Mackenzie, T. A., Phillips, R. B., & Lurie, J. D. (2015). Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69 years. Spine, 40(4), 264-270.