Neurological impact of acupuncture studied

Acupunture benefits - Terry A. Rondberg, DCIn recent years, chiropractors have once more turned their attention to the neurological component of the subluxation. After decades of concentrating on musculoskeletal aspects, it’s a move that is as timely as it is important. In the years to come, our understanding of how we impact the brain will be the key to becoming the leader in the wellness revolution.

It’s a trend we’re seeing in other non-medical fields as well. In fact, a British research study published earlier this year in the journal Brain Research revealed that acupuncture has a significant effect on specific neural structures.

The researchers explained that when a patient receives acupuncture, it triggers a sensation called deqi (literally, the arrival of chi, pronounced duh-chi). Scientific analysis shows that this energy impulse deactivates areas within the brain that are associated with the processing of pain.

Dr. Hugh MacPherson, of the Complementary Medicine Research Group in the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, noted: “These results provide objective scientific evidence that acupuncture has specific effects within the brain which hopefully will lead to a better understanding of how acupuncture works.”

Neuroscientist Dr. Aziz Asghar, of the York Neuroimaging Centre and the Hull York Medical School, added: “The results are fascinating. Whether such brain deactivations constitute a mechanism which underlies or contributes to the therapeutic effect of acupuncture is an intriguing possibility which requires further research.”

Last summer, following research conducted in York, acupuncture was recommended for the first time by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment option for NHS patients with lower back pain. NICE guidelines now state that GPs should “consider offering a course of acupuncture comprising a maximum of 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks” for patients with this common condition.

Current clinical trials at the University of York are investigating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and for depression. Recent studies in the US have also shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for migraines and osteoarthritis of the knee.

The York team believes that the new research could help to clear the way for acupuncture to be more broadly accepted as a treatment option on the NHS for a number of medical conditions. “Our results show the importance of collecting and accounting for needle sensation data in neuroimaging studies of acupuncture,” researchers concluded.

There’s an equally important need to collect information on the neurological impact of chiropractic adjustments, such as that being collected by doctors who use the NeuroInfiniti equipment.

ABSTRACT:  “Acupuncture needling sensation: The neural correlates of deqi using fMRI.” Brain Research, Vol. 1315, 22 February 2010, Pages 111-118.

AUDIO: Dr. Hugh Macpherson, from the University of York, discusses new research into the effects of acupuncture on the brain published in Brain Research.

Chiropractic Neurology – Q & A

by Terry A. Rondberg, DC

Chiropractic Neurology - by Terry A. RondbergBased on my previous articles on the subject, it’s clear there is a lot of interest about chiropractic neurology. What’s it all about? I’m posting this blog in frequently asked question (FAQ) format to ensure you can quickly find the answers you need.

Q. What’s chiropractic neurology?

A. According to the American Chiropractic Neurology Board (ACNB), chiropractic neurology is defined as “the field of functional neurology that engages the internal and external environment of the individual in a structured and targeted approach to affect positive changes in the neuraxis and consequent physiology and behavior.”

Q. So what does that mean in plain English?

A. It means that a chiropractic neurologist examines how the nervous system is functioning (or malfunctioning). If the system is out of balance, chiropractic treatment focuses on repairing the imbalance, such as vertigo, Autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD), to restore the patient to health.

Q. What others types of disorders can chiropractic neurology address?

A. Chiropractic neurologists may treat the above conditions, as well as dizziness, disequilibrium and imbalance, dystonia, tremors, chronic pain syndromes, back pain and movement disorders. They may also treat behavioral disorders such as Tourette’s Syndrome, as well as changes in personality or motor, sensory or cognitive impairments resulting from head traumas, accident injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and mild TBI.

Q. So what’s the difference between a chiropractic neurologist and a medical neurologist?

A. According to the ACNB, the chiropractic neurologist provides the same manner of consultation as a medical neurologist, with the major difference being that the therapies and applications are performed without the use of drugs or surgery. So, a medical neurologist or neurosurgeon will prescribe medications, injections or brain surgery to correct a disorder or condition. On the other hand, the chiropractic approach is to therapeutically change brain and nervous-system function.

Q. How is a chiropractic neurologist different than a “traditional” chiropractor?

A. Most chiropractors are trained in the detection and correction of spinal dysfunction. But spinal function is just one of many influences on the nervous system. A neurologist not only has completed the doctor of chiropractic program, but must receive three years of additional training and testing to become a board-certified neurologist in the chiropractic profession. The extra training is specific to the field of neurology and includes the study of neurophysiology and clinical and diagnostic techniques.

Q. What are the benefits of chiropractic neurology?

A. Simply put, many conditions of the brain and nervous system do not respond well to aggressive interventions such as drug therapy or surgery. Both drugs and surgery are often associated with increased risks for serious complications or dangerous side effects. Thus, the approach taken by chiropractic neurologists can be highly beneficial in treating brain and nervous system disorders using safe and effective methods with lasting health benefits.

Neurological Activity (Part Three) – By Terry A. Rondberg, DC

Part Three of three articles.

In a previous Journal article, although medical authorities acknowledge neurological complications may occur as a result of subluxation, classical chiropractic definitions mandate the presence of a neurological component.  Researcher, Charles Lantz, PhD, DC, writes, “Common to all concepts of subluxation are some form of kinesiological dysfunction and some form of neurological involvement.”

Nevertheless, we’re often ignoring that neurological involvement.  As a result, we are known as back-pain doctors and used the same way as aspirin or exercise equipment: to relieve musculoskeletal stiffness and pain.  One reason is we were sold a bill of goods to find a “niche” market. Back pain, we were told, was a lucrative market, with nearly eight of every ten adults suffering from it at one time or another. We thought the medical profession would allow us to treat back pain as long as we did not invade their territory.

It was also less complicated to describe how chiropractic could ease back pain than it was to explain the entire vitalistic philosophy.  It was also easier to advertise.  All we had to do was show a person with red lightning bolts radiating from his or her back or neck and we were in business!

The final reason we ignored the neurological component was that we didn’t have the scientific research to prove what we knew from clinical experience.  As Dr. Davila says, “We need to show a neurological connection to the subluxation so we have the proof we have talked about over the years and then tie that connection to functional improvement.”
Why then is so much of our current research focused on back pain and similar musculoskeletal conditions?  Here, for instance, is the complete list of all the projects funded by FCER last year:

  • “Chiropractic Dosage for Lumbar Stenosis”
  • “Chiropractic and Acute Neck Pain: A Practice-Based Study”
  • “Preventive Care of Chronic Cervical Pain and Disabilities: Comparison of Spinal Manipulative Therapy and Individualized Home Exercise Programs”
  • “Does Chiropractic Care Decrease Fall Risk in Older Adults?”  (The grant description notes that: “It is proposed that balance, the risk factor for falls, is adversely affected by both musculoskeletal function and low back and lower extremity pain — which have been found to be responsive in previous studies to chiropractic intervention.”)


Do you see the pattern here?  Instead of locking our profession in the miniscule musculoskeletal box, we need to reclaim the missing component of subluxation: neurological involvement. The World Chiropractic Alliance is dedicated to this mission.  We must discuss with our patients and members of the community, integrating it in our patient education programs. It is also necessary to redesign our advertising so we are not reinforcing the old, erroneous idea of back pain doctors. Furthermore, we should demand that our colleges and research institutions stop plucking the low-hanging fruit by examining the connection between chiropractic and back pain! Field doctors need to start using the NeuroInfiniti instrumentation to accurately measure a patient’s neurological response before and after subluxation correction, and learn to document vital information for use not only in research but for the government and all insurance companies.

In the hundred-plus years since DD Palmer discovered chiropractic, we’ve lost much of the spirit and substance of chiropractic. If we lose the neurological component of the subluxation, we will lose our original identity and possibly, our future.

I don’t want to wait until someday for chiropractic validation. Certainly, you do not wish to wait to transform your office into a smooth-running and modern, scientific evidence-based practice, with easy-to-use technology that maximizes your patient outcomes AND your bottom line! However, we do not need to wait until that elusive someday.  We can have it all NOW.

About the Author – Terry A. Rondberg, DC.
As CEO of the World Chiropractic Alliance, Dr. Terry Rondberg is known worldwide as one of the chiropractic profession’s leading proponents. After receiving his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) Dr. Rondberg began publishing The Chiropractic Journal, a leading publication in the field. In addition to publishing the Journal—which continues to be an authoritative reference for chiropractic practitioners and professionals —Dr. Terry Rondberg has written a number of best-selling books on the subject of chiropractic.