Chiropractors have been boasting for years that we are neurology specialists- that we treat the spine, and therefore the nervous system. One classic explanation for this is because an important part of the central nervous system, the spinal cord, lies within the spinal canal that goes through each vertebrae. Another commonly used explanation for this is that subluxation, that “bone out of place” that chiropractors adjust, can put pressure on the spinal nerves and obstructs nerve flow or vital force that goes to each target organ. And while both of those theories may be true to some extent, there seems to be a better explanation, however.
More recently (since about the 80s or 90s) as our understanding of neurology has advanced, so has our understanding of chiropractic’s affect on the nervous system. Simply put, adjustments are felt by the patient, which means that they are somehow sensed and interpreted by the brain. Depending on the location of the adjustment, the type of adjustment, or the timing of the treatment, the brain will interpret that information a different way. This also calls attention to the very real, but all too forgotten reality that everything in our lives provides different stimulation to our brains. Whether it be the food we eat, the sensory information from our feet, or the thoughts we think, everything is perceived by the big guy upstairs- whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Furthermore, the brain has the remarkable ability to adapt to the stimulation it recieves- or as we in the biz call it, neuroplasticity. This is the basis for neurological stimulation such as what we use in functional neurology. As the weak circuitry is stimulated, the pathways are strengthened and allowed to operate more smoothly.
As a clinician who wants to help the more “complicated” patients out there, I find it will be especially important for me to know not only how the body affects the brain, but how the brain affects the rest of the body. This is why I have chosen to study chiropractic neurology (also called functional neurology). Functional neurologist take extensive classwork in addition to their chiropractic degree coursework to further understand the nervous system. To get a diplomate in functional neurology one must complete a minimum of 300 hours of additional coursework in neurology and pass a rigorous clinically oriented test. Many chiropractic neurologists are also well versed in functional medicine- another critically important skill set when treating the so called “complicated” patients that are becoming increasingly common now.
Chiropractic neurology has received a lot of press in the last few months, mostly because of Dr. Ted Carrick’s work treating hockey star Syd Crosby. Since then, Carrick and functional neurology has seen a lot of positive press, as well as a lot of skepticism. For example, one particularly rude reader commented on an article about Crosby that “last he knew, concussion was not caused by a subluxation”… And I agree, but we never claimed that it was! When applied in a specific way that is unique to the patient’s neurological needs, chiropractic adjustments can be a very powerful and effective way to stimulate the brain. Furthermore, functional neurologists such as Carrick use a variety of treatments in conjunction with their adjustments including eye exercises, as well as balance and coordination exercises. That poster’s comment not only reveals a clear lack of understanding of basic neurology and neuroplasticity, but an unawareness of what chiropractic neurology is all about!
Chiropractic neurology helps the brain function at it’s very best. Certainly anybody could benefit from chiropractic neurology, but it is particularly great for people with neurological disease or symptoms. If you know of someone who’s brain is not functioning at it’s best, finding a qualified chiropractor near you may make a world of difference in that person’s life. I encourage you to go on the American Chiropractic Neurology board’s website and find a chiropractic neurologist near you!
Passionately helping others,
More on Crosby and Carrick-
More about Functional Neurology in the press-
http://vimeo.com/47787677 (recently on ABC’s nightline)
Trailer and information about the functional neurology movie Hope Restored–
A fun read on neuroplasticity and changing your thoughts for the better-