A new conversation is on the table, one about new means of engagement between chiropractors and their patients, medical colleagues, and the public.
This new conversation discusses chiropractic’s role in brain health and related stress.
Most patients don’t understand such terms as subluxation, bone impingement on nerves, or spinal misalignment—all topics about which chiropractors try to educate people— but patients do understand what pain and stress feel like, and they are desperate to feel better.
This message was relayed by presenters at Life Chiropractic College West’s seventh annual The WAVE conference, Minds That Matter, held Aug. 4–6, 2017, in San Francisco.
The conference presented research on the effects of chiropractic on the central nervous system. Some recent findings indicate that adjustments have a beneficial and measurable effect on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to forge new connections between nerve cells.
One recent study related to chiropractic and brain health has pinpointed the area of the brain activated in response to chiropractic.1
The neuroplasticity model
Brain research could change chiropractic as we know it, Heidi Haavik, DC, PhD, says, if chiropractors understand and act on the significance of recent findings. Haavik spoke about the research in her presentation, “Beyond a Doubt: Adjusting the Spine Changes Brain Function.”
“It’s becoming so important that we as a profession understand this new science, this neuroplasticity model of explaining how an adjustment actually changes the brain, because it’s going to influence us on every level, from the way we practice to how we communicate about it to politics to how we interact with other healthcare professionals,” Haavik says.
“It really explains pretty much everything we see in practice, and so much more.” Haavik heads up the Centre for Chiropractic Research at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic in Aukland. She studies what happens when a chiropractor checks and adjusts a subluxation and the effect this has on brain health and the central nervous system. Haavik authored the book Reality Check: A quest to understand chiropractic from the inside out.
At The WAVE, Haavik discussed a study she co-authored, “Manipulation of Dysfunctional Spinal Joints Affects Sensorimotor Integration in the Prefrontal Cortex: A Brain Source Localization Study,” published in 2016 in the journal Neural Plasticity.
Haavik said one of the most exciting findings of this study is the calculation of where in the brain chiropractic-related changes are taking place.
“It’s in the part of the brain where you have the sensory cortex, the motor cortex, the prefrontal cortex, and the basal ganglia having a little conversation about proprioceptive information from the upper limb,” she says. “Being able to show that the biggest change was in the prefrontal cortex was extremely exciting to me.”
This is one of many studies Haavik has worked on that indicate a neuroplasticity model of chiropractic care—what she calls a biologically plausible, defensible model of how chiropractic really works.
“This neuroplasticity model is not the be-all and the end-all, it is only one way that we now know that chiropractic care works,” Haavik says. “There are probably other things as well, like the [cerebral spinal fluid] model and dural tension and all these other things we still need to explore further and look more into.”
However, she says the quality and amount of research conducted in this area to date is now statistically significant.
“We finally have one way, one model, that is biologically plausible… [and] you can go and talk to anyone—neuroscientist, health professional, medical doctor—you could talk about the effects that we now know, [that] chiropractic has a neuroplastic effect on the central nervous system, and they could go look it up afterwards and find that what you are saying is true. That is a really big thing for us as a profession,” she adds.
The challenge now, says Haavik and other presenters at The WAVE, is communicating new knowledge about brain benefits of chiropractic to patients and prospective patients to secure a commitment to a lifetime of care.
The public appreciates hearing facts about chiropractic, and by communicating that information to them, doctors of chiropractic can honor and respect patients and allow them to make their own healthcare choices based on knowing what the facts are.
Chiropractic, breaking free
Dennis Perman, DC, provided a roadmap for that communication journey in his presentation, “Speaking the Language of Brain-Based Wellness.”
He, like Haavik, says more chiropractors need to talk to patients about the effects of chiropractic on brain health; more specifically, he says, on stress. Unresolved stress, he maintains, is at the root of most health conditions.
This communication will help the patient understand the significance of chiropractic and the benefits of lifetime care, Perman says, and the way to cultivate those patients is to stop talking so much about bones and nerves and instead tell them how chiropractic can lessen the stress in their lives.
For example, during an appointment the chiropractor can explore with the patient if his or her stress is physical, chemical, nutritional, emotional, or mental.
“When you start to talk this language, people pay attention,” Perman says. “When you ask the typical person, ‘Do you have stress daily?’ most people say yes. If you were to ask them further to quantify their experience of stress on a scale of one to 10, the most typical answers are seven or eight.
“What chance do they have? What hope do they have?” Perman asks. “We have to do something to save these people. They are getting eaten alive … we have to be the ones who spearhead this—you pick up this ball and run with it.”
Perman explains that you can tell your patients that chiropractic adjustments ease the structure of the body and effect changes in the brain—and you will be amazed by the results of that kind of communication.
“You become their most trusted advisor, you become their source of wellness,” he says. “Once we position ourselves as something we do to either help the patient reduce their stress or handle their stress better, you are speaking in a way they will understand—and that’s what’s needed for chiropractic to break free in the marketplace.”
The WAVE 2018
An estimated 2,000 doctors and students of chiropractic, and those affiliated with them, attended The WAVE 2017, and more than 40 vendors presented information on products serving the chiropractic field.
“The WAVE exceeded our expectations, and our expectations were extremely high to start with,” Life College President Ron Oberstein, DC, told Chiropractic Economics. “I am blessed to have an amazing team, and the great feedback we received reflected the hard work we put into this event.”
Conference speakers also presented on chiropractic neurology, concussion, optimal performance, pediatric chiropractic, marketing, and communication.
“This year’s WAVE really set the bar,” Oberstein says. “Our goal will always be to deliver the highest quality content and speakers, while maintaining a learning atmosphere of love and community. The WAVE 2018 will be phenomenal.”
The WAVE will be held next in Oakland, California, in 2018. For more information, visit lifewestwave.com.
Additional speakers and presentations at The Wave 2017 included:
- Dan Murphy, DC: “The Chiropractic Connection: A 100-Year History of the Spinal Subluxation and its Neurological Implications”;
- Bruce Lipton, PhD: “Epigenetics, Safety Pins, and the Science of A-D-I-O”;
- Pam Jarboe, DC: “The Science of Subluxation and the Power of Communication”;
- Nora Gedgaudas: “Primal Mind: The Critical Role of Ancestral Nutrition in
- Bennet Omalu, MD: “Don’t Break the Rules, Change the Game”;
- Brad Glowaki, DC, and Matt Treaner: “Concussion Roulette”;
- Jeffrey Fannin, PhD: “Critical Communication Between the Brain and the Autonomic Nervous System in Chiropractic”;
- Monika Buerger, DC: “Balancing the Brain with the Vestibular System”;
- Rob Sinnott, DC, LCP, DPhCS, FPhC, FICA: “Human Adaptability and the Trajectory of Life”;
- Monique Andrews, DC: “Pediatric Neurodevelopment or How to Grow the Perfect Brain”;
- Ted Carrick, DC, PhD: “Clinical Neurology for the Practicing Chiropractor”;
- Scott L Rosa, DC, BCAO: “Advancements in Dynamic Upright MRI Imaging”;
- John Troup, PhD: “Whole Food Nutrition Influences Gut Brain Axis and Metabolic Systems”;
- Sean Drake, DC: “Principle, Performance, and the Future of Sports Chiropractic”;
- Bryan Gatterman, DC, DACBR: “X-Ray”; and
- Eric Hipple: “Effects of Concussion from a Former Pro Athlete.”
Karen Menehan is editor in chief of MASSAGE Magazine, the sister publication to Chiropractic Economics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Lelic D, Niazi IK, Holt K, et al. Manipulation of Dysfunctional Spinal Joints Affects Sensorimotor Integration in the Prefrontal Cortex: A Brain Source Localization Study, Neural Plasticity. 2016;(2016):doi:10.1155/201 6/3704964.