Chiropractic Biophysics – How it Can Objectively Improve Your Spinal Health

Chiropractic biophysics can correct the shape and structure of your spine to allow for proper movement and function which leads to overall wellness.

What is chiropractic biophysics and how is it different than regular chiropractic care?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Chiropractic biophysics, acronym CBP, is essentially the most researched form and most evidence-based form of chiropractic and it incorporates your traditional chiropractic care. In regard to most people, if you asked most people what a chiropractor is, they’re going to say, “Adjust, manipulate, adjust the spine, essentially.” Chiropractic biophysics is absolutely that. However, a little bit of backstory on chiropractic biophysics, a math, PhD/structural engineer had a life-changing event with a chiropractor and pivoted his careers and became a chiropractor. And he applied engineering and biomechanical principles to the spine. The spine is obviously a structure that absorbs force, weight. So obviously he figured out the way the spine should be absorbing force and weight.

So, he applied those engineering and mathematic principles to the spine and incorporated it in their kind of care plan. What really kind of stands apart with CBP is the traction component. We are going to discuss this here in a moment. But if your spine is out of alignment, then obviously that’s going to create compensation, which over time is going to break us down, which leads to the systematic symptoms and dysfunction. The CBP traction protocol is where you can actually objectively change the shape of the spine in terms of the structural portion of the spine or change it in a structural way, which offers loads of really, really cool benefits, which we’ll get into here.

And then, yes, CBP involves a lot of soft tissue work and a lot of physical therapy, too. So it’s like a multi-pronged approach. But if you have to hang your hat on, why is it different? It is the structural correction, the spinal traction that is incorporated to the care plans, which is based off of, again, structural engineering kind of principles.

What is the role of x-rays in chiropractic biophysics and what type of x-rays are used?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, x-rays are critically important in chiropractic care, regardless if you’re doing CBP or not. If you’re going to build a house, you need the blueprints. So if you’re going to work with the spine, what does it look like? So x-rays provide objective data. X-rays also allow the chiropractor who’s qualified in CBP, chiropractic biophysics, to do a structural analysis and figure out biomechanically where the spine has shifted and how much it shifted. And then from there you can obviously really dial in a specific treatment plan around that patient.

And then you can use any x-rays, old school x-rays, so old school film, although obviously they’re being phased out. And then most clinics now are using digital x-rays, which are really great and efficient. Digital x-rays allow us to just do just really cool kind of biomechanic analysis with a software that we use called PostureRay, which is where you can actually kind of figure out exactly to the degree the shift that we’ve got within the segment of the spine and the spine as a structural unit.

How is spinal decompression therapy used in chiropractic biophysics?

Dr. Luke Stringer: There are several forms of spinal decompression. The most rudimentary form is where you’re hanging upside down in one of those decompression tables. And then the next one is probably on the most significant medical level is where the spine is just being essentially separated either on the Y axis, so pulling up or on the X axis where you’re kind of pulling horizontally when you’re laying down for your low back obviously. And then if you’re sitting up on the Y axis for your neck.

Spinal decompression is great, particularly when you’ve got acute disc injuries from trauma, lifting, car accidents. Because what it does, it separates the joint and by creating separation, the joint creates a vacuum, so it pulls that disc fluid in. And chiropractic biophysics essentially uses a similar premise in regards to creating separation in the joint. However, the difference in what really sets chiropractic biophysics apart is they’re not just decompressing, but they’re always essentially creating a second load. So, they’re not just distracting the spine, they’re actually pulling or pushing the spine back to where it should be. So, the typical spinal decompression is going to offer relief, but as soon as you stand up, you add gravity to the equation, well your alignment hasn’t changed and you’re going to compress the disc and essentially over time that disc is just going to shift back to where it was originally at.

Chiropractic biophysics is actually going to correct the shape or the structure of your spine. So then when you are physically upright and absorbing force via gravity, then obviously your spine is going to absorb that force more efficiently, which is going to create better load into the joint, onto the disc, tissue, nerve, which obviously offers for better patient outcomes. And research is pretty clear here, it offers more of an objective long-term improvement to your spinal pain.

Could you explain how chiropractic biophysics contributes to long-term pain relief and overall wellness?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Yes, so that kind of led us on nicely there. So, there’s a really cool research paper that came out pretty recently. Dr. Deed Harrison, who heads CBP, extremely bright, kind of one-off guy, he’s working with several doctors in the Middle East who are more on the kind of physical therapy side of things and they’ve teamed up. So essentially, the research paper states that if you are receiving chiropractic and/or physical therapy to the area that is injured, the complaint, typically that patient is going to respond well to the treatment, they’re going to feel better particularly when they’re getting the treatment. However, when you follow up with that patient at the follow up, 6, 12, 18, 24 months, the patients that did not receive traction, so the chiropractic biophysics component, essentially research stated that they felt the same and/or worse than they did when they were receiving treatment.

So, the difference, the group that received the chiropractic biophysics, the spinal traction component was the same as the group that didn’t receive the traction in regard to when they were getting adjusted and performing a physical therapy, they felt really good. However, what separated them from the other group was that at their follow-up, 6, 12, 18, 24 months, their improvement lasted. So, they felt as good, if not better than when they finished treatment. This is statistically significant.

So, what chiropractic physics can do is it can objectively address or objectively change the shape of your spine in regard to getting it back to within normal limits. And by getting it back or closer to normal limits, then that’s obviously going to allow the patient to have more of a long-term solution. For example, if we’re treating neck pain and if we’re eyeballing posture from the side, your ear should sit on top of that bony point of your shoulder, that AC joint and your neck curve should measure negative 42 degrees. So, when you’re upright and gravity hits the spine, the weight of your head, on average 12 to 15 pounds, is loaded in the back of the spine. That curve keeps pressure off the joint, the disc, the nerve. So obviously then that allows us to supplement that with good balance muscle strength, and you should be able to move and function without any restrictions.

So fast forward 10 years, you’ve been pinned to your desk 50 hours a week looking down at your keyboard. Well, now your head shifted two inches forward, you’ve got a 50% reduction in your neck curve. Well, where does the weight of your head sit? Doesn’t sit in the back of the spine, it sits at the front, so that’s going to compress the spine, the disc, the joint, the nerves. So over time that’s going to break it down, can manifest the symptoms or dysfunction in that organ system and obviously eventually degenerative changes, et cetera.

If that person is receiving adjustments and physical therapy, they’re going to feel great. But if the curve hasn’t been addressed, over time the lack of curve is going to catch back up to them, and obviously that’s how the pain’s going to return and typically it gets worse over time. The people that essentially address that neck curve, so work with the CBP traction protocols, ie., their getting the top bone, back on top of the bottom bone and they’re improving that curve. Well, that allows the weight of your head to be transferred from the front of the spine to the back.

So then when you’re upright, obviously you’ve got balanced muscle strength, good posture or balanced strength in those posture muscles, we’re going to be able to hold good posture. So then when you’re upright, the way the head’s going to sit is at the back of the spine, that’s going to create more of a long-term objective improvement, which is going to reduce pain over an extended period of time and going to allow us to function better, which obviously is overall wellness improvement, quality of life, et cetera.

For a new patient receiving chiropractic biophysics care, what should they expect during their first few visits?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, I can speak from my kind of office and then all my colleagues that practice CBP. It’s really thorough. So, any patient’s going to come on in, meet the doctor, take a detailed history, perform a detailed orthopedic exam, neurological exam, take set of full spinal x-rays, and then typically they go home. 24, 48 hours later, they come back and then sit down and review what essentially the clinical findings are showing. The clinical findings supplement the goals and are going to dictate treatment recommendations. So, for example, I have headaches, I’ve had them for a year, they’re once a week, they last three days. I can’t focus at work, it interferes with my ability to gain a promotion. We perform an orthopedic exam, neurological exam, take x-rays, review that. Those findings are showing that, again, we’ve got anterior head carriage, so you head shifted forwards by two inches, 50% reduction in the neck curve, we’ve got phase two degenerative change at the fourth level in your neck, that’s going to create neck and upper back pain. Then we explain that to the patient and then we recommend treatment.

Typically, in the first visit of treatment, this patient is getting adjusted. They’re doing some work for the discs in the neck, they’re doing some mobility work for the muscles in the neck and the upper back. That’s the kind of first treatment visit. The second visit is kind of what we call the full visit. So that’s when they’re going to be going through the full gamut of treatment. So, we want to focus on breaking down adhesion, which is scar tissue in the muscle, which is going to limit essentially stability and mobility in the joint. We’re going to focus on improving range of motion, so dynamic movement of the joint within the spine and then also static stretching. So, lengthen the muscle that’s under tension for extended period of time. We’re going to figure out which muscles are dominating and which muscles aren’t doing their job. So, for example, those deep neck flexors keep your head back. While we’re just sitting, looking down all day, they get weak and lazy. So, they allow their head to shift forward in that kind of corporate posture. So we’re going to engage those muscles. And then obviously we’re going to engage the muscles that sit deep between the shoulder blades, because those are the muscles that kind of keep shoulders back. But when we don’t move, they get weak and lazy. Then they’re going to do some postural reeducation. The spine’s going to get adjusted and then they begin traction. And then traction, kind of incrementally working them through traction, increasing their time and the weight as they go through their care plan.

And then corrective care is typically CBP, so can be anywhere from 24, 36, 48 visits. And then obviously at the end of care we take their x-rays and show objective improvement, go over things we should be doing outside of the practice. Then those patients will graduate into more of a kind of supportive maintenance program.

If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Luke Stringer visit or call (312) 987-4878 to schedule an appointment.

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