The origin of Chiropractic Biophysics and what it means for my patients
In the mid-1970s a math teacher, Donald Harrison, injured his back. He lay on the couch, cussing, moaning and being ornery to everyone in sight until his wife could not stand him. His wife and her friend dragged him kicking and screaming, “I don’t want to see one of those quacks!”, to her friend’s chiropractor. He got better and decided to go to a chiropractic college. I pity his professors.
In spinal anatomy class, the professor explained, from the front view, the spine should be straight up and down, no deviations from side to side. From the side view, there should be smooth flowing curves, top to bottom, lordotic (curved with the apex middle of the curve towards the front) in the lumbar(lower back) and cervical (neck) regions and kyphotic (apex middle of the curve towards the back) in the thoracic (mid and upper back, region with vertebrae having ribs attached) and sacral (part of the spine between the pelvic bones at the base of the spine) regions. Any questions?
Mr. Harrison raised his hand. “Yes, Mr. Harrison.” “About those curves: should they be circular or elliptical, and if elliptical, what should the ratio be between the major and minor radii of rotation, and how do we know that?” The professor already knew he was out of his depth. “And If we drew lines tangential (bordering) to the posterior body margins at each vertebral level and measured the angles these lines made at each level, what should those angles be, and how do we know that? And if a patient came in significantly out of alignment and we wanted to enable the patient to show a significant improvement on follow up radiograph (X-ray), do we have the technology to reliably achieve that goal?
The professor paused and said, “We don’t know.” “OK. Which one don’t you know?” “We don’t know the answers to any of those questions.” Harrison did not let up. “What do you mean, you don’t know? You’re trying to correct alignment and you don’t even know what you’re aiming for?” “We have a general idea.” “GENERAL IDEA? YOU COULD BLINDFOLD ME, SPIN ME AROUND THREE TIMES, PUT A DART IN MY HAND, POINT ME TOWARDS A DART BOARD, I’D HAVE A GENERAL IDEA OF WHERE THE DART BOARD IS. HOW OFTEN WILL I GET A BULLSEYE?”
To understand who brilliantly prescient this question was, you have to understand what a chiropractic miracle is. More about that later. While still a student, Donald Harrison started researching his own questions. In practice he started applying the mechanical engineering he had minored in as an undergraduate to better care for his patient’s spines and got amazing results. He was still dissatisfied. He went back to school, got his PhD in mathematics and his masters in mechanical engineering and brought his research along with many chiropractors who thought his questions important. Together they founded a new technique called Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP). Every one of those questions has been answered and published in the most respected peer reviewed journals in the world, starting with a study in the journal Spine showing the neck curve is ideally a portion of a circle. CBP is now the most published technique in chiropractic and his son, Deed Harrison, who has taken over the lead in CBP research and education, is the most published researcher in the profession.
The central concepts of CBP practice are understanding the ideal and potential shapes of spines along with mirror image exercise, mirror image adjusting and mirror image traction to get spines as close to ideal as reasonably possible.
Despite the research and innovation of Chiropractic BioPhysics, many chiropractic schools teach not to try to correct alignment. They teach it is too difficult and that by merely freeing up motion In a stuck joint, chiropractors can enable the joint to pump waste products associated with inflammation out of the joints and enable nutrients to come into the joints and often providing relief. This is what my alma matter taught me.
I have never met a chiropractor who could not help a patient relieve pain. But the often unrealized promise of chiropractic is much greater, and some feel it is false promise, including practitioner who have rarely if ever seen the kind of changes some speak of: the patients with conditions ranging from hypertension, allergies, asthma, urinary incontinence, bed wetting, attention deficit disorder, erectile dysfunction, infertility and others. When people with these conditions find chiropractic care greatly reduces or eliminates these conditions it is often referred to as a chiropractic miracle.
In my senior year of chiropractic college, the dean of our school came into our class and announced, “I’d like to speak to you about chiropractic miracles. On average, each of you will experience one or two of these over the course of your careers. When they occur, don’t try to understand why. Just thank God and go on with your practice.” In the first five years of my practice I never experienced any. In my first two and one half years, I never thought about correcting alignment.
Then I heard an analogy comparing the spine to tires on cars: if in perfect alignment, the best tires on the market can last 100,000 miles, but if out of alignment, they may last 35,000 miles or fewer. A spine kept in perfect alignment should last nearly 100 years before being seriously affected by degeneration. A spine significantly out of alignment may show significant degeneration by mid to late twenties. I decided it was worthwhile to see patents for longer to try to address alignment. I trained with a practice management group on how to get patients to commit to longer care plans. Then on two successive Mondays in a row, after I had been out of town at seminars, two pateints came in with X-rays in their hands. Each had been patients of mine for about six months, had histories of whiplash, neck pain. Numbness in the arms, headaches and responded to chiropractic manipulation with temporary relief. Each had had flare ups over the weekends. One saw her primary care physician and the other went to the emergency room. When I reviewed their X-rays I saw the same lousy reversed curves they had in their necks when they first presented in my office. I felt like I had just been an expensive chiropractic aspirin, became depressed and my practice quickly lost volume. I also determined I had better learn how to reliably correct alignment.
This led me to the Harrisons and Chiropractic BioPhysics. I invested considerable time to learn, train get the equipment needed and became a distinguished fellow of CBP. I started to see better follow up results on follow up x-rays with my patients. Then one morning in August, an elderly gentleman, my first patient of the day, said to me, “Doc, I never mentioned it to you when I started, but I used to have to get up three to four times per night to urinate each night and by the last one in the morning, I couldn’t even hold it ‘till I’d get to the toilet without dripping a few drops on the floor. Lately it’s only been once or twice per night and no trouble controlling it in the morning. Could that have anything to
do with what we’ve been doing here?” I told him the nerves from his lower back, an area we had been working on, controlled his sphincters and bladder and I was glad he was doing better, adjusted him, put him on traction and my next patient came over and told me, “Doc, I couldn’t help overhear him. I also used to get up three to four times per night to urinate and lately it’s been only once or twice.” I told him that was great, adjusted him and put him on traction. I then greeted my next patient who told me, “Doctor, I don’t seem to need my inhaler much anymore.” I realized I had broken my dean’s quota for a career’s worth of chiropractic miracles with my first three patients of the day. I have since had a man ask me if his ability to achieve erection again could have anything to do with what we were doing, a patient who had been told she could never have babies have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, a high schooler with attention Deficit Disorder who was taking remedial classes and was on Adderoll go off the Aderoll and take an AP history course, and no longer need remedial classes in one semester, a patient on anti-hypertensive medication have to go off of it when his blood pressure got to low, had kids stop wetting their beds, older women no longer need their urine pads, others repot improvements in their allergies, get over infections remarkably quickly when their neighbors had the same infection for weeks, and others. I have come to believe that what some refer to as chiropractic miracles do not occur with just loosening up stuck joints, but are common with CBP care. I am thrilled to be able to offer this to my patients. I am the only Distinguished Fellow of Chiropractic Biophysics for two counties around in any direction.
This is not to say I am better than all my colleagues in the area, rather that I possess a unique set of skills and tools. When the skills and tools of a colleague was more appropriate to a pateint's needs, I always have made the referral. But I firmly believe there is tremendous benefit to reliably improving alignment, in addition to restoring motion to joints.