Many people may not know about the inner workings of the nervous system and the chiropractic neurology profession.
How the Nervous System Works
The nervous system controls involuntary and voluntary actions, and it also transmits signals throughout the body. There are two main parts to the nervous system: the CNS (central nervous system) and the PNS (peripheral nervous system). The CNS consists of the spinal cord and brain. The PNS is made up of nerves that spread throughout the body. The peripheral nervous system is divided into three parts: autonomic, somatic, and enteric. The somatic nervous system is involved in voluntary movement. The autonomic system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of mobilizing energy in an emergency, while the parasympathetic system works in a relaxed state. The enteric system is involuntary. The cranial nerves exit the cranium and the spinal nerves exit the spinal cord. Nerve cells are called neurons, and they send electrochemical wave signals along axons, and these “cause chemicals called neurotransmitters”. If the nervous system works properly, signals travel back and forth and provide feedback. Some medical conditions cause malfunctions in the process, such as genetic defects, toxicity, trauma, infection, aging, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and diabetic neuropathy.1
Recent News about the Nervous System
There are many areas of the nervous system that have made recent news. The craniocervical junction of the body contains the occipital bone (“the base of the skull”) and the atlas and axis (“the first two bones of the spine”). These structures contain “the brain stem, which connects to the spine”, and disorders to the region could cause many issues. The bones may be fused together, misaligned, or abnormally developed. The misalignment might be separated or dislocated, or there can be a partial misalignment, or subluxation. If there is a misalignment, then the pressure on the spinal cord can lead to numbness, weakness, or even paralysis.2 Chiropractors can work on misalignments. The nervous system can be taught to “forget chronic pain”. This is important because opioids and other painkillers are addictive and can lead to overdose. The opioid medications are also not effective for chronic pain; they are best used for acute pain. To treat patients without opioids, researchers have found a mechanism to “explain…why some people hurt for so long” and it has to do with chronic pain being “like a maladaptive memory”. Dr. Yves De Koninck has found a “neurochemical trick used to erase memory…to turn off chronic pain”. Anisomycin is being used in research to block “production of receptors that neurons need to form memories”.3 Other researchers are finding ways to inactivate the TRPV1 protein or the sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor to treat asthma so that sensitive neurons do not narrow airways.4 DARPA is working on “tiny implants” that “will hook directly into your nervous system” in order to “treat diseases and depression without medication”.5 Bioelectronics is a growing field in which implants are created “that can communicate directly with the nervous system…to fight everything from cancer to the common cold”. The biggest challenges are speaking the “electrical language of the body” and making implants small enough and “robust enough to run powerful microprocessors”. A goal of this field is to replace the need for injections, medicines, and prescriptions.6
What is Chiropractic Neurology?
Chiropractic neurology is a specialized chiropractic practice. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recognizes chiropractic neurology as a specialty in the chiropractic field. This specialty is certified by the following two boards: International Board of Chiropractic Neurology (IBCN) and American Chiropractic Neurology Board (ACNB). The ACNB was formed as a merger of older boards: the American Chiropractic Association Council on Neurology (ABCN) and the American Chiropractic Academy of Neurology (ACAN). The ACA mediated that merger; “therefore the only neurology diplomate certifications recognized by the ACA are: DACAN, DABCN, & DACNB”.7 Unlike medical neurology, chiropractic neurologists focus on using the “body and the environment and the technique of adjustment” to improve health. How the neurological and musculoskeletal systems interact is important to the quality of the patient’s life. While the medical neurologists focus more on medicines and surgical referrals, US chiropractic neurologists do not prescribe medications. Chiropractic neurologists may co-manage cases with various healthcare practitioners, such as massage and physical therapists, allopathic physicians, naturopaths, occupational and speech therapists, acupuncturists, and other types of professionals.8 There are many types of patients that chiropractic neurologists see, including those who have had traumatic brain injury (TBI). Ted Carrick is a chiropractic neurologist with worldwide clinics. He has worked with patients who have migraines and concussions, for example. One technique Carrick used was placing a patient in front of a mirror to perform exercises “that would trick his mind’s eye with a mirror image to re-program his brain”. Another tool Carrick uses is a “GyroStim”, or “a chair that spins on a double axis” that the patient is strapped into. The idea is that the GyroStim can “stimulate parts of the brain that may be damaged”.9
Chiropractic Neurology vs. Medical Neurology Fields
Another term for chiropractic neurology is “functional neurology”. Many of the same diagnostic procedures as medical neurologists (e.g., MRI, CT, EMG, etc.) are used, but it is after the diagnosis that the treatments vary. Medical neurologists may prescribe medications for controlling symptoms, such as reducing muscle spasms with muscle relaxants. Chiropractic neurologists, by contrast, look to see what functions are lost and then use a “course of neurological rehabilitation” to restore or improve function. Instead of prescribing medications, a chiropractic neurologist may use herbal treatments or other natural alternatives, but most of the treatment focuses on functionality restoration. For example, with muscle spasms, the chiropractor may work on the reflexes that are built into the muscles to help the patient. If biceps are in spasm, the chiropractor could focus on the triceps muscle, using the agonist-antagonist reflex. When the triceps muscle is activated, “the spastic biceps will relax reflexively”.10
Chiropractic neurologists have 300 additional classroom training hours in chiropractic neurology. These post-doctorate hours must be from an accredited institute. The accreditation body for the graduate school neurology programs is the Commission on Accreditation of Graduate Education in Neurology (CAGEN). It “evaluates graduate chiropractic/functional neurology programs…that lead to the students/learners setting for the ACNB board examination”. CAGEN has accredited the Carrick Institute, the National University of Health Sciences, and the University of Quebec at Trois Rivier’s.11 The ACNB certifies students who pass the “rigorous written and performance exams” so that they may be called “Diplomates of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board (DACNB)”. The written and practical or performance exams are provided at least once a year. The American Chiropractic Neurology Board is “the sole specialty board in neurology recognized by the American Chiropractic Association”. The Diplomate program itself is accredited by the NCCA, or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.12 The Carrick Institute has international schools in 36 cities in 13 countries. It offers continuing education and post-graduate education with over “100 courses, totaling over 2000 hours”. The CI was founded as a result of the work done in Dr. Carrick’s private practice, and “over 14,000 clinicians have taken courses with Carrick Institute”.13 Carrick has become known for working with people with concussions, such NHL star Sidney Crosby and US Women’s hockey player Meghan Duggan.14