By Ron Boesch, DC, DACNB, Dean of Clinics, Palmer Chiropractic Clinics
neurology is a subspecialty of chiropractic practice. There are
currently 11 specialties recognized by the American Chiropractic
A chiropractic neurologist diagnoses and treats a range
of disorders affecting the nervous system. The therapy a chiropractic
neurologist prescribes does not include drugs or surgery. Typical
dysfunctions treated by a chiropractic neurologist include a variety of
disorders affecting the peripheral nervous system, such as radiculopathy
or other peripheral nerve entrapment syndromes. They also work with
patients who have central nervous system disorders such as multiple
sclerosis or post-stroke rehabilitation. In addition to providing
therapies and treatments, a chiropractic neurologist can provide
counseling about diagnostic dilemmas and offer advice about the care a
patient may already be receiving. They use many tools to come to a
diagnosis: physical examination, laboratory values, radiographs, MRI,
CT, electromyogram (EMG), and many other available tests.
widely held belief that brain development takes place early in childhood
and then stops by the time we reach maturity. In fact, recent research
has shown that the brain never stops changing in response to input from
the environment. This is called brain plasticity or neuroplasticity.
What is brain plasticity? Plasticity, or neuroplasticity, describes how
experiences reorganize neural pathways in the brain. Long-lasting
functional changes in the brain occur when we learn new things or
memorize new information. These changes in neural connections are what
we call neuroplasticity.
To illustrate the concept of plasticity,
imagine the film of a camera. Pretend that the film represents your
brain. Now imagine using the camera to take a picture of a tree. When a
picture is taken, the film is exposed to new information — the image of a
tree. In order for the image to be retained, the film must react to the
light and “change” to record the image of the tree. Similarly, in order
for new knowledge to be retained in memory, changes in the brain
representing the new knowledge must occur.2
During the first years of
life, the brain grows rapidly. As each neuron matures, it sends out
multiple branches (axons, which send information out, and dendrites,
which take in information), increasing the number of synaptic contacts
and laying the specific connections from neuron to neuron. At birth,
each neuron in the cerebral cortex has approximately 2,500 synapses. By
the time an infant is 2 or 3 years old, the number of synapses is
approximately 15,000 synapses per neuron (Gopnick, et al., 1999). This
amount is about twice that of the average adult brain. As we age, old
connections are deleted through a process called synaptic pruning. It is
plasticity that enables the process of developing and pruning
connections, allowing the brain to adapt itself to its environment.
information gathered by receptors in the muscles and joints, for
example, can alter the function of brain systems, which in turn affect
the function of those receptors. The chiropractic neurologist is trained
in these therapy modalities, that is, therapies informed by an
understanding of the brain’s role in joint and muscle dysfunction.
have many kinds of sense receptors, which we use to gather information
about the world around us and within our own bodies. An example is the
rods and cones in the eye’s retina, which we use for detecting color,
shape, and movement. Another one is mechanoreceptors; these receptor
cells are sensitive to mechanical stimulation such as touch, pressure,
and tension. We have mechanoreceptors in our skin as well as our muscles
and joints for a sense called proprioception. Proprioception is the
unconscious sense that allows your brain to know where your body parts
are and what they’re doing at all times. If you close your eyes and
touch your finger to your nose, your sense of proprioception is at work.
of the sense receptors connect to nerves that in turn connect to the
spine and brain. As sensory input is routed through the nervous system,
it alters the function and structure of the brain on an ongoing basis to
maintain normal function. The brain in turn uses sensory input to
regulate the body, constantly sending information and instructions back
to all body parts. All of those instructions depend ultimately on the
position and movement of your joints, which are thus integral to your
nervous system. In this integrated system, a change in one part can’t
help but affect all the others. For example, the biomechanics of a joint
can be altered by injury, poor posture, or repetitive stress.
in-depth knowledge of both the central and peripheral nervous system
makes the chiropractic neurologist a valuable resource for helping other
clinicians in managing patients who have overlapping symptoms or who
aren’t responding to care. Together with other health care providers on
the team, they can help design a management plan that is specifically
tailored to the patient’s condition.
Using their knowledge of the
nervous system and how it can help reduce pain and improve function is
the goal of the chiropractic neurologist. Many components are necessary
for chiropractic neurologists to develop the management plan for a
patient. First is the determination of the cause of the problem; this
will set the tone for how the condition is treated. Treatment basically
covers three main areas: chiropractic care, nutrition, and exercise.
is chiropractic care that is appropriate for the individual. Conditions
and symptoms evaluated by the chiropractic neurologist are varied. They
include but are not limited to the following: low back pain, neck pain,
joint pain, nerve pain or numbness, tingling, headaches, irregular
movements, muscle spasms, unusual sensations, and many other symptoms.
Spinal and joint manipulation by chiropractors has been shown to have
many benefits to improve function and reduce pain. There are a number of
ways chiropractic adjustments can be performed manually or with
Nutrition covers not only basic good eating habits, but a
nutrition plan may be designed based on conditions such as type 2
diabetes or other dietary-related disorders. There may be need for
supplementation or modifying overall eating habits. Exercise
recommendations will consist of specific exercises to improve function
by starting with flexibility then moving to strengthening of the
affected muscles. Rehabilitation will be part of this area to help
retrain the proprioception of the joints so that they function better.
Then, of course, there is general exercise for overall fitness that will
To make an appointment at the Palmer Clinics,
call 563-884-5726 (Davenport Clinic) or 309-764-4901 (Moline Clinic) or
go to www.palmerclinics.com/qc to request an appointment online.
Additionally, Palmer’s Davenport Clinic is hosting an Open House on Oct.
9 in celebration of October as National Chiropractic Health Month. Now
is a great time to find out why so many of your friends and neighbors
live healthier lives with regular chiropractic care from the Palmer