Carrying the Torch of Research
Research in chiropractic has been ongoing since 1905 with O.G. Smith’s microscopic studies of the intervertebral foramen and the intervertebral disc. Chiropractic research has continued ever since at varying levels of rigor.
One area of research that is vital to chiropractic’s future is research that explores the chiropractic paradigm.
This is carrying the torch of research in the chiropractic profession.
In one of his most personal and philosophically illuminating passages from his 30+ books, B.J. Palmer wrote,
“WE came OUT OF THAT ONE ROOM, bearing a fiercely burning torch to build a better road on which sick people could travel in their rights to get well and live longer…” (Vol. 37)
Part of the way he did that was to develop a research clinic in the 1930s, which was used to research and develop chiropractic analysis, technique, and outcomes.
B.J. Palmer’s Research Vision
In his final book, B.J. Palmer described the many objective measures utilized in the B.J. Palmer Chiropractic Research Clinic. The research focused on the detection of vertebral subluxation using x-ray analysis, thermography, and the timpograph (an early form of surface electromyography based on EEG technology) with an emphasis on reproducible measures. The research included shielded and grounded booths and strict guidelines of patient positioning and practitioner protocols.
This list includes most of the outcome measures utilized at the Clinic. Alongside standard examinations and instrumentation for anatomical and physiological health, patients were assessed using novel technologies.
The volumes of data collected between 1935 and 1961 have yet to be fully explored with statistical analysis.
- Recording sphygomanometergraph
- Audio cardiograph
- Contour graphometer record
- Urine analysis
- Blood tests
- Metabolism tests
- Microscopic examinations
- Physical examinations
- Neurotempometer record
- X-ray analysis (using ten x-rays)
According to Martin’s classic article The Only Truly Scientific Method of Healing: Chiropractic and American Science 1895-1990, the research in the clinic was on par with much of the medical research of the day.
Exemplars Carrying the Torch of Research
There is some incredible research being conducted around the globe, some of which is highlighted at the International Research and Philosophy Symposium each fall. This symposium often highlights exemplary researchers, academics, and thought leaders like Kelly Holt, Dave Russell, Matthew McCoy, Christie Kwon, and Curtis Fedorchuk.
Holt and Russell built upon previous studies by Robert Cooperstein and raised the bar for Interexaminar Reliability studies. Their study was conducted at New Zealand College of Chiropractic. They used a multidimensional battery of tests to assess for vertebral subluxation. Their research forces the profession to rethink ALL previous interexaminer reliability studies. This is important for several reasons as it demonstrates good reliability between examiners and it calls into question conclusions drawn from earlier studies of poor reliability.
McCoy and Kwon lead the Foundation for the Vertebral Subluxation along with Christopher Kent, foundation president. FVS developed a robust research agenda to explore the epidemiology of vertebral subluxation and the clinical outcomes to management.
Fedorchuk was named researcher of the year by FVS in 2017. His research includes a pioneering study of Diabetes Type 1, a case study using Telomere length, and correcting a Grade 2 Spondylolisthesis. Fedorchuk’s call for a profession-wide epidemiology study at Sherman’s Lyceum in 2018 is available here: The Epidemiology of Subluxation in the US and the Need for Being an Evidence Generating Practice.
Adaptability Research Symposium
The Adaptability Research Symposium was developed to provide a forum for chiropractors to learn about a central pillar of the chiropractic paradigm: adaptation. The symposium emphasizes the chiropractic perspective that “it is the level of adaptability that determines the health of an individual.”
This year’s Adaptability Symposium is September 28-29 in Chicago. One highlight of the conference will be a LIVE demonstration of a chiropractic adjustment utilizing six outcome measures: 1. Heart rate variability, 2. Impedance cardiography, 3. Pupillary reflex testing, 4. Bilateral paraspinal skin temperature analysis, 5. Dermatomal testing, and 6. Skin conduction levels.
This type of research and analysis carries the torch of chiropractic research. Please do your best to attend!