Chiropractic Vertebral Subluxation
By Mark Studin
William J. Owens
Citation: Studin M., Owens W. (2018) Vertebral Subluxation Complex, American Chiropractor, 40 (7) 12, 14-16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26-27
A report on the scientific literature
Chiropractic was discovered in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer and further developed by his son, Bartlett James Palmer. Together, they helped coin the phrase “vertebral subluxation,” yet to date, there has been little evidence of it in the literature. When we consider neuro-biomechanical pathological lesions that will degenerate (please refer to Wolff’s Law) based upon homeostatic mechanisms in the human body we will better understand and be able to define the chiropractic vertebral subluxation and more specifically, the chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex (VSC). In addition, the literature has provided us with a vast amount of evidence on both the biomechanical dysfunction of the spine as well as the neurological consequence as sequelae to that biomechanical dysfunction.
Despite over a century of reported and literature-based clinical results, detractors both outside and inside the chiropractic profession argue to limit the scope of these spinal lesions because the literature has not yet caught up to the results. Additionally, the lack of contemporary literature has been reflected in “underperforming” chiropractic utilization in the United States for conditions that have been well-documented as responding successfully in outcome studies with chiropractic care.
Murphy, Justice, Paskowski, Perle and Schneider (2011) reported:
Spine-related disorders (SRDs) are among the most common, costly and disabling problems in Western society. For the purpose of this commentary, we define SRDs as the group of conditions that include back pain, neck pain, many types of headache, radiculopathy, and other symptoms directly related to the spine. Virtually 100% of the population is affected by this group of disorders at some time in life. Low back pain (LBP) in the adult population is estimated to have a point prevalence of 28%-37%, a 1-year prevalence of 76% and a lifetime prevalence of 85%. Up to 85% of these individuals seek care from some type of health professional. Two-thirds of adults will experience neck pain some time in their lives, with 22% having neck pain at any given point in time.
The burden of SRDs on individuals and society is huge. Direct costs in the United States (US) are US$102 billion annually and $14 billion in lost wages were estimated for the years 2002-4. (p. 1)
In 2017, based upon Alioth Education, dollars adjusted for inflation equates to $18,141, 895,182.64 in direct costs for spinal-related conditions that fall within the chiropractic treatment category and have proven to outperform other forms of care. When considering outcome assessments for efficacy of chiropractic in a population-based study, both Cifuentes, Willets and Wasiak (2011) and Blanchette, Rivard, Dionne, Hogg-Johnson, and Steenstra (2017) offered evidence that the results are rooted in a “first healthcare provider” or “primary spine care” solution.
Cifuentes et al. (2011) compared different treatments of recurrent or chronic low back pain. They considered any condition recurrent or chronic if there was a recurrent disability episode after a 15-day absence and return to disability. Anyone with less than a 15-day absence of disability was excluded from the study. Please note that we kept disability outcomes for all reported treatment and did not limit this to physical therapy. However, the statistic for physical therapy was significant.
According to the Cifuentes, Willets and Wasiak (2011) study, chiropractic care during the disability episode resulted in:
- 24% decrease in disability duration of first episode compared to physical therapy.
- 250% decrease in disability duration of first episode compared to medical physician’s care.
- 32% decrease in average weekly cost of medical expenses during disability episode compared to physical therapy care.
- 21% decrease in average weekly cost of medical expenses during disability episode compared to medical physician’s care.
Cifuentes et al. (2011) started by stating, “Given that chiropractors are proponents of health maintenance care…patients with work-related LBP [low back pain] who are treated by chiropractors would have a lower risk of recurrent disability because that specific approach would be used” (p. 396). The authors concluded by stating, “After controlling for demographic factors and multiple severity indicators, patients suffering nonspecific work-related LBP who received health services mostly or only from a chiropractor had a lower risk of recurrent disability than the risk of any other provider type” (Cifuentes et al., 2011, p. 404).
Blanchette, Rivard, Dionne, Hogg-Johnson and Steenstra (2017) reported:
The type of first healthcare provider was a significant predictor of the duration of the first episode of compensation only during the first 5 months of compensation. When compared with medical doctors, chiropractors were associated with shorter durations of compensation and physiotherapists with longer ones. Physiotherapists were also associated with higher odds of a second episode of financial compensation. (p. 388)
Despite compelling evidence of chiropractic being the best option for primary spine care treatment of injuries related to disabilities and pain based upon outcomes, the reasons why chiropractic works have been elusive. Despite the lack of literature-based evidence, answers are still being sought because positive results are consistently being realized in clinical chiropractic practices. When Keating et al. (2005) wrote an opinion or debate article, they concluded, “Subluxation syndrome is a legitimate, potentially testable, theoretical construct for which there is little experimental evidence” (p. 13).
This statement is one of the most unifying statements that could serve to reduce pain and opiate utilization, prevent premature degeneration and increase bio-neuromechanical function for our society, while significantly increasing our utilization because chiropractic is part of the answer. However, the simple question is, “Why aren’t we doing this specific research because the pieces of what is considered subluxation have been verified in the literature for quite some time?”
VSC starts with spinal biomechanics and when considering a pathological model, we need to define the normal functioning of the spine.
Panjabi (2006) reported:
The spinal column, consisting of ligaments (spinal ligaments, discs annulus and facet capsules) and vertebrae, is one of the three subsystems of the spinal stabilizing system. The other two are the spinal muscles and neuromuscular control unit. The spinal column has two functions: structural and transducer. The structural function provides stiffness to the spine. The transducer function provides the information needed to precisely characterize the spinal posture, vertebral motions, spinal loads etc. to the neuromuscular control unit via innumerable mechanoreceptors present in the spinal column ligaments, facet capsules and the disc annulus. These mechanical transducers provide information to the neuromuscular control unit which helps to generate muscular spinal stability via the spinal muscle system and neuromuscular control unit. The criterion used by the neuromuscular unit is hypothesized to be the need for adequate and overall mechanical stability of the spine. If the structural function is compromised, due to injury or degeneration, then the muscular stability is increased to compensate the loss. (p. 669)
Panjabi (2003) also reported:
It has been conceptualized that the overall mechanical stability of the spinal column, especially in dynamic conditions and under heavy loads, is provided by the spinal column and the precisely coordinated surrounding muscles. As a result, the spinal stabilizing system of the spine was conceptualized by Panjabi to consist of three subsystems: spinal column providing intrinsic stability, spinal muscles, surrounding the spinal column, providing dynamic stability, and neural control unit evaluating and determining the requirements for stability and coordinating the muscle response. (p. 372)
In defining spinal clinical instability, Panjabi (1992) previously reported:
Clinical instability is defined as a significant decrease in the capacity of the stabilizing system of the spine to maintain the intervertebral neutral zones within the physiological limits so that there is no neurological dysfunction, no major deformity, and no incapacitating pain. (p. 394)
Anatomically, we are starting with the vertebrate and more specifically, the articular facets indicating that VSC is a “complex” and not a simple problem as the anatomical pathology occurs in opposing facets. When looking at normal vertebral structures,
Cervical spine meniscoids, also referred to as synovial folds or intra-articular inclusions, are folds of synovium that extend between the articular surfaces of the joints of the cervical spine. These structures have been identified within cervical zygapophyseal, lateral atlantoaxial and atlanto-occipital joints, and have been hypothesised to be of clinical significance in neck pain through their mechanical impingement or displacement, as a result of fibrotic changes, or via injury as a result of trauma to the cervical spine. (p. 939)
An understanding of the basic structure of meniscoids is necessary to assess their potential role in cervical spine pathology. As described above, cervical spine meniscoids are folds of synovium that protrude into a joint from its margins. Meniscoids lie between the articular surfaces at the ventral and dorsal poles of their enclosing joint. Their basic structure includes a base, which attaches to the joint capsule, a middle region and an apex that protrudes approximately 1–5 mm into the joint cavity. In sagittal cross section, these structures are triangular in shape, and when viewed superiorly they often appear crescent-shaped or semi-circular. Cervical spine meniscoids are thought to function to improve the congruence of articular structures, and to ensure the lubrication of articular surfaces with synovial fluid. (p. 940)
Should these synovial folds or “plicas” become trapped or “pinched” as described by Evans (2002), it would be the beginning of a “negative neurological cascade.”
Evans (2002) reported:
Intra-articular formations have been identified throughout the vertebral column. Giles and Taylor demonstrated by light and transmission electron microscopy the presence of nerve fibers (0.6 to 1 mm in diameter) coursing through synovial folds, remote from blood vessels, that were most likely nociceptive. They concluded, “Should the synovial folds become pinched between the articulating facet surfaces of the zygapophyseal joint, the small nerves demonstrated in this study may have clinical importance as a source of low back pain.” (p. 252)
Figure 1: Images of meniscoid entrapment on flexion, on attempted extension, involving flexion and gapping and realigned.
Evans (2002) explained the images above as follows:
Meniscoid entrapment. 1) On flexion, the inferior articular process of a zygapophyseal joint moves upward, taking a meniscoid with It. 2) On attempted extension, the inferior articular process returns toward its neutral position, but instead of re-entering the joint cavity, the meniscoid impacts against the edge of the articular cartilage and buckles, forming a space-occupying “lesion” under the capsule. Pain occurs as a result of capsular tension, and extension is inhibited. 3) Manipulation of the joint involving flexion and gapping, reduces the impaction and opens the joint to encourage re-entry of the meniscoid into the joint space (4) [Realignment of the joint.] (p. 253)
Evans (2002) continued:
Bogduk and Jull reviewed the likelihood of intra-articular entrapments within zygapophyseal joints as potential sources of pain…Fibro-adipose meniscoids have also been identified as structures capable of creating a painful situation. Bogduk and Jull reviewed the possible role of fibro-adipose meniscoids causing pain purely by creating a tractioning effect on the zygapophyseal joint capsule, again after intra-articular pinching of tissue(p. 252)
Evans (2002) also noted:
A large number of type III and type IV nerve fibers (nociceptors) have been observed within capsules of zygapophyseal joints. Pain occurs as distension of the joint capsule provides a sufficient stimulus for these nociceptors to depolarize. Muscle spasm would then occur to prevent impaction of the meniscoid. The patient would tend to be more comfortable with the spine maintained in a flexed position, because this will disengage the meniscoid. Extension would therefore tend to be inhibited. This condition has also been termed a “joint lock” or “facet-lock,” the latter of which indicates the involvement of the zygapophyseal joint…
An HVLAT manipulation [chiropractic spinal adjustment CSA], involving gapping of the zygapophyseal joint, reduces the impaction and opens the joint, so encouraging the meniscoid to return to its normal anatomic position in the joint cavity. This ceases the distension of the joint capsule, thus reducing pain. (p. 252-253)
When considering VSC in its entirety, we must consider the etiology as these forces can lead to complex patho-biomechanical components of the spine and supporting tissues. As a result, a neurological cascade can ensue that would further define VSC beyond the inter-articulation entrapments. Panjabi (2006) reported:
Abnormal mechanics of the spinal column has been hypothesized to lead to back pain via nociceptive sensors. The path from abnormal mechanics to nociceptive sensation may go via inflammation, biochemical and nutritional changes, immunological factors, and changes in the structure and material of the endplates and discs, and neural structures, such as nerve ingrowth into diseased intervertebral disc. The abnormal mechanics of the spine may be due to degenerative changes of the spinal column and/or injury of the ligaments. Most likely, the initiating event is some kind of trauma involving the spine. It may be a single trauma due to an accident or microtrauma caused by repetitive motion over a long time. It is also possible that spinal muscles will fire in an uncoordinated way in response to sudden fear of injury, such as when one misjudges the depth of a step. All these events may cause spinal ligament injury. (p.668-669).
Panjabi (2006) goes on to explain what happens when the spinal column is affected by trauma:
The structural function provides stiffness to the spine. The transducer function provides the information needed to precisely characterize the spinal posture, vertebral motions, spinal loads etc. to the neuromuscular control unit via innumerable mechanoreceptors present in the spinal column ligaments, facet capsules and the disc annulus. These mechanical transducers provide information to the neuromuscular control unit which helps to generate muscular spinal stability via the spinal muscle system and neuromuscular control unit. The criterion used by the neuromuscular unit is hypothesized to be the need for adequate and overall mechanical stability of the spine. If the structural function is compromised, due to injury or degeneration, then the muscular stability is increased to compensate the loss. What happens if the transducer function of the ligaments of the spinal column is compromised? This has not been explored. There is evidence from animal studies that the stimulation of the ligaments of the spine (disc and facets, and ligaments) results in spinal muscle firing. (p. 669).
Panjabi (2006) described the mechanism that, coupled with the inter-articulation nociceptor “firing,” further defines the “negative neurological cascade”:
The hypothesis consists of the following sequential steps:
- Single trauma or cumulative microtrauma causes subfailure injury of the spinal ligaments and injury to the mechanoreceptors embedded in the ligaments.
- When the injured spine performs a task or it is challenged by an external load, the transducer signals generated by the mechanoreceptors are corrupted.
- Neuromuscular control unit has difficulty in interpreting the corrupted transducer signals because there is spatial and temporal mismatch between the normally expected and the corrupted signals received.
- The muscle response pattern generated by the neuromuscular control unit is corrupted, affecting the spatial and temporal coordination and activation of each spinal muscle.
- The corrupted muscle response pattern leads to corrupted feedback to the control unit via tendon organs of muscles and injured mechanoreceptors, further corrupting the muscle response pattern.
- The corrupted muscle response pattern produces high stresses and strains in spinal components leading to further subfailure injury of the spinal ligaments, mechanoreceptors and muscles, and overload of facet joints.
- The abnormal stresses and strains produce inflammation of spinal tissues, which have abundant supply of nociceptive sensors and neural structures.
- Consequently, over time, chronic back pain may develop. The subfailure injury of the spinal ligament is defined as an injury caused by stretching of the tissue beyond its physiological limit, but less than its failure point. (p. 669-670)
One hallmark of determining vertebral subluxation complex for the chiropractic profession has been ranges of motion of individual motor units. Both hypo- and hypermobility have been clinically associated with muscle spasticity and have offered a piece of clinical history in the practice setting. NOTE: Ranges of motion, like any other findings, are no more than pieces of evidence, all of which must clinically correlate.
Radziminska, Weber-Rajek, Srączyńska and Zukow (2017) reported:
The definition of the neutral zone explains that it as a small range of motion near the zero position of the joint, where no proprioreceptors are stimulated around the joint and osteoligamentous resistance is minimal (lack of centripetal response and, consequently, lack of central muscle stimulation).
Increasing the range of motion of the neutral zone is detrimental to the joint – it can lead to its damage. Delayed proprioceptive information about the current joint position that reaches the central system will give a muscle tone response, but it may turn out to be incompatible with external force acting on the joint. The reduced range of motion of the neutral zone is also unfavorable. If the stimulation of proprioreceptors is too early it will result in an increased muscle tension around the joint. The neutral zone is disturbed by traumas, degenerative processes, and muscle stabilization weakness. (p. 72)
With VSC, the joint that has been misplaced creates abnormal biomechanics and abnormal pressure to the joint. This is called Wolff’s Law, formulated and accepted since the 1800’s, and is explained by Kohata, Itoha, Horiuchia, Yoshiokab and Yamashita (2017):
When mechanical stress is impressed upon bone, an electrical potential is induced; the area of bone under compression develops negative potential, whereas that under tension develops positive potential. This phenomenon is generated by collagen piezoelectricity, and the electrical potential generated in bone by collagen displacement has been well documented. (p. 65)
VSC is based upon both the macro- and microtrauma induced motor unit pathology, creating interarticular meniscoid nociceptor entrapment that triggers nociceptors and affects the lateral horn for a local reflex. It then innervates the thalamus through the spinothalamic tracts and periaqueductal grey matter which is then further distributed to various cortical regions to process in the body’s attempt to compensate biomechanically. This, coupled with aberrant motor unit ranges of motion (hypo or hyper), subfailure injuries to the ligaments and the corrupted mechanoreceptors and nociceptor messages that innervate the lateral horn cause a “negative neurological cascade” both reflexively at the cord and the brain. This cascade can cause pain and inflammation and will cause premature degeneration if left uncorrected based upon Wolff’s Law because of improper motor unit biomechanical failure. Should the correction be made after remodelling of the vertebrate, then care changes from corrective to management as the spine can never be perfectly biomechanically balanced as the segments (building blocks for homeostasis) have been permanently remodelled.
The research for VSC exists in its components. However, there needs to be a concise research program that combines all the pieces to further conclude the evidence that exists. Furthermore, we need more conclusive answers as to why chiropractic patients get well, answers that goes beyond pain or aberrant curves.
1. Murphy, D. R., Justice, B. D., Paskowski, I. C., Perle, S. M., & Schneider, M. J. (2011). The establishment of a primary spine care practitioner and its benefits to health care reform in the United States. Chiropractic & manual therapies, 19(1), 17.
2. FinanceRef Inflation Calendar, Alioth Finance. (2017). $14,000,000,000 in 2004 → 2017 | Inflation Calculator. Retrieved from http://www.in2013dollars.com/2004-dollars-in-2017?amount=14000000000
3. Cifuentes, M., Willets, J., & Wasiak, R. (2011). Health maintenance care in work-related low back pain and its association with disability recurrence. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 53(4), 396-404.
4. Blanchette, M. A., Rivard, M., Dionne, C. E., Hogg-Johnson, S., & Steenstra, I. (2017). Association between the type of first healthcare provider and the duration of financial compensation for occupational back pain. Journal of occupational rehabilitation, 27(3), 382-392.
5. Keating, J. C., Charlton, K. H., Grod, J. P., Perle, S. M., Sikorski, D., & Winterstein, J. F. (2005). Subluxation: Dogma or science? Chiropractic & Osteopathy, 13(1), 17.
6. Panjabi, M. M. (2006). A hypothesis of chronic back pain: Ligament subfailure injuries lead to muscle control dysfunction. European Spine Journal, 15(5), 668-676.
7. Panjabi, M. M. (1992). The stabilizing system of the spine. Part II. Neutral zone and instability hypothesis. Journal of Spinal Disorders, 5, 390-397
8. Panjabi, M. M. (2003). Clinical spinal instability and low back pain. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 13(4), 371-379.
9. Farrell, S. F., Osmotherly, P. G., Cornwall, J., Sterling, M., & Rivett, D. A. (2017). Cervical spine meniscoids: an update on their morphological characteristics and potential clinical significance. European Spine Journal, (26) 939-947
10. Evans, D. W. (2002). Mechanisms and effects of spinal high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust manipulation: Previous theories. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 25(4), 251-262.
11. Radziminska, A., Weber-Rajek, M., Strączyńska, A., & Zukow, W. (2017). The stabilizing system of the spine. Journal of Education, Health and Sport, 7(11), 67-76.
12. Kohata, K., Itoh, S., Horiuchi, N., Yoshioka, T., & Yamashita, K. (2017). Influences of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis on the electrical properties of human bones as in vivo electrets produced due to Wolff’s law. Bio-Medical Materials and Engineering, 28(1), 65-74.
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.
- AAPM facts and figures on pain, the American Academy of pain medicine (2018), retrieved from: http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx#common
- 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
- 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
- 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: http://www.uschirodirectory.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=822:the-mechanism-of-the-chiropractic-spinal-adjustment-manipulation-chiropractic-vs-physical-therapy-for-spine-part-5-of-a-5-part-series&Itemid=320
Chiropractic and Prescriptive Rights
Should Chiropractors Be Allowed to Prescribe Drugs?
By Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Citation: Studin M. (2018) Chiropractic and Prescriptive Rights; Should Chiropractors be Allowed to Prescribe Drugs? American Chiropractor, 40 (3) 16, 17, 18, 19
As the rhetoric and legislative agendas escalate nationally on chiropractic and pharmaceutical prescriptive rights, as a profession, we need to take pause and consider the long-term effects of our actions. The question is, “Are we responsibly evolving or are we creating a problem that could put chiropractic back decades in utilization?” Please understand that this argument is totally devoid of any philosophy or beliefs in chiropractic principles or results; it is purely focused on increasing the utilization and business of every chiropractic practice in the country for the betterment of our patients.
Based upon an informal, but lengthy poll of many in our profession, one of the core reasons for wanting to add prescriptive rights is to help increase utilization at the practice level. The majority believe that if we could prescribe even non-narcotics, then patients would stay in our offices vs. seeking medical care for pain relief and a pro forma prescription to physical therapy with a resultant decrease in utilization of our offices. Unfortunately, that has been the national trend for far too long.
The question begs, “Are prescriptive rights the solution for both the chiropractic profession and our society? Over the last decade, I have been focused on increasing the level of clinical excellence of the practicing chiropractor, which has nothing to do with technique, philosophy or documentation. The level of clinical excellence has been centered on patient management, including accurately diagnosing, prognosing and triaging patients. The reason, medicine focuses on patient diagnosis and management and chiropractic has historically focused on treatment, too often bypassing rendering a thorough and conclusive diagnosis prior to rendering care. Therefore, my areas of focus are MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanical engineering, accident engineering, spinal trauma pathology and diagnosing spinal issues beyond subluxation.
Why concern ourselves with the medical community? The answer, quite simply, is that medical utilization is over 95% nationally and chiropractic is well below 10% and has been eroding steadily over the last decade. IF chiropractic can “tap” into that 95% and have every medical doctor in the nation consider chiropractic as the first choice for mechanical spine issues (excluding fracture tumor or infection), then we will rapidly change the culture of our society and resolve our utilization challenges rapidly. This is called “primary spine care.”
Over the last 10 years, I have been teaching in both chiropractic and medical academia and have cooperatively created courses in chiropractic in the above genres. As a result, the doctors who have taken these courses are getting the exact same level of education as many of our medical counterparts. The results, we are now functioning at a “peer” level that has garnered respect NOT because we get people well without drugs. That respect is because we understand spine at an extremely high level, often more so than our medical counterparts and they find themselves consulting with us on many of their more challenging cases looking for solutions. In turn, they also have been referring us many of their mechanical spine cases to manage because many medical doctors realize they are poorly equipped with nothing but drugs that are often too often addictive or end up with surgery as the only other option.
The primary care medical providers, medical specialists and emergency rooms that we work with nationally have expressed their gratitude for helping these patients by redirecting their care to the properly credentialed chiropractor and preventing further opiate abuse and/or the side effects of non-narcotics as well. The way they thank us is in the form of a perpetual streams of referrals. A case in point was in Cedar Park, Texas, where one of our doctors, 8 years into practice, sat with an orthopedic surgeon and discussed MRI spine interpretation. After a 1-hour conversation, the surgeon said to the doctor, “I love chiropractic; I just couldn’t find a smart enough chiropractor to trust with my referrals until now. Your knowledge of spine and MRI is equal to mine and from here forward, you will get all of my non-surgical referrals!” That doctor left with 8 referrals instantly and 1 year later has had a steady stem of referrals . I could share similar stories from Dayton, Ohio, Buffalo, New York, America Fork, Utah, Denver, Colorado, Fair Lawn, New Jersey and dozens of other locations across the United States. The formula is working; it is reproducible and is purely based upon clinical excellence beyond adjusting!
As a note, many get angry with our chiropractic colleges for not teaching us enough…Remember, our chiropractic colleges are charged with giving us the basics to get started and they do an outstanding job in that role. I applaud them and so should you in the form of donations to their research departments. In medicine, it is no different, they get a basic education and THEN go back to school to become specialized. What you do with YOUR career after graduation is on YOU.
We now have hospital emergency departments nationally reaching out to our doctors purely based upon their curricula vitae’s (CVs) because the doctors in our program are trained in what needs to be on their CVs with the resultant knowledge base behind those credentials. AND…for clarity (unlike my former beliefs), letters after your DC are not as important as the specific citations or credentials in your CV.
Having been involved politically at the national and state levels for quite some time, I can say with a great degree of certainty that very little healthcare legislation (chiropractic falls under this category) in this country at either level gets passed without the blessing of the medical community. By attempting to add prescriptive rights to our scope, we will be threatening the utilization of medicine on a national scale and it will potentially close many of those doors that are currently opening at a rapid rate. The medical schools and research departments that have opened their doors to chiropractic (us) have done so primarily as a possible solution to the opiate epidemic in our country and we cannot be “Pollyannaish” and say we only want to prescribe non-narcotics. It has been clearly documented that this is a well-established “gateway” to addictive narcotics as when non-narcotics fail to offer relief, those patients need something else. Chiropractic care is that “something else” for mechanical spine pain, which is in the top 10 diagnoses for both emergency rooms and primary care medical providers who often have no solution other than drugs or surgery. Medicine’s only other historical care path with regards to mechanical spine diagnosis and management is physical therapy, which renders significantly inferior outcomes for spine vs. chiropractic based upon recent literature (a topic for another article) and one where far too many patients have ended up in pain management (narcotics) as the final solution.
Currently, our profession is at a cross-road on the prescriptive rights issue and if taken, could turn out to be a “very slippery slope” that could further erode our utilization and lead to increased iatrogenic issues in our society. I empathize with those doctors clinging to hope for a “quick fix” for their individual practices. However, as outlined above, there are viable solutions for every practice in the nation with none involving “get rich quick” paradigms. As I also consult many medical providers at various levels and I can report that their prescription pads are not making them wealthy, should they practice ethically. Their utilization and income increases as they get better at what they do and in chiropractic, we are no different.
Although our paradigm for increased utilization is working through increasing our clinical excellence, we are just starting to see this happen on a larger scale and the only way to have that upward spiral go faster, is if more chiropractors realize that the only way up is though academia and a strategic plan behind your new level of clinical excellence. So please hurry because your local medical community is waiting for you with that 95% to refer.