CF 084: Multifidus & Disc Degeneration, Opioids & First Provider, Craniocervical Instability

Chiropractic evidence-based products
Integrating Chiropractors
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Today, it’s like the olden days here at the Chiropractic Forward Podcast. That’s right. No guests, just moiah. Me. Unfiltered and onery as usual. I’ve had stuff piling up in my archives and we’re going to sprint through some of it and see what sticks. We’re going to talk about the multifidus and some new research on it having to do with disc degeneration, we’ll talk about why what provider you see after low back injury can make all the difference, and we’ll talk about some hint that fibromyalgia and even POTS is theorized to be caused by craniocervical instability. Maybe?

It’s a heaping plate of knowledge noodles so keep your seat, the Italian mama that feeds you too much is in the kitchen. But first, here’s that yummy like a meatball bumper music

Chiropractic evidence-based products
Integrating Chiropractors
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OK, we are back. Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.  

You have shimmied into Episode #84

Before we get started, 

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And thanks to them for being involved in what we’re trying to accomplish here. 

Personal Happenings

If you hear something here that you really like and would like it in written form rather than spoken, just hop onto, find the episode, and just scroll down to copy and paste it. If you’re using it for content or on your website for some reason, just be cool and give us some credit please. I’d sure appreciate it and I’m sure the researchers we discuss would too. 

Item #1

Our first paper to cover is called “Physical activity attenuates fibrotic alterations to the multifidus muscle associated with intervertebral disc degeneration” and is authored by G. James, D. M. Klyne, et. al. and was published in European Spine Journal in May of 2019(James G 2019). 

Why They Did It

The authors here say that chronic low back pain….chronic…longstanding low back pain literally changes and remodels the multifidus muscles. They go on to say that physical activity reduces the local inflammation that comes before multifidus fibrosis during intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD), but its effect is unknown. This study aimed to assess the development of fibrosis and its underlying genetic network during intervertebral disc degeneration and the impact of physical activity.

How They Did It

This research was actually done on mice. To keep the entertainment value of this podcast as high as possible, I’m not going to get specific here as far as substance P, MMP2, blah blah blah. We’ll just head right to the conclusion of the paper. 

They say “these data reveal the fibrotic networks that promote fibrosis in the multifidus muscel during chronic intervertebral disc degeneration. Furthermore, physical activity is shown to reduce fibrosis and regulate the fibrotic gene network.” 

So they’re saying move it move it move it. 

Item #2

This next paper is called “Initial Provider Specialty Is Associated With Long-term Opiate Use in Patients With Newly Diagnosed Low Back and Lower Extremity Pain” and is authored by TC Azad, D Vail, and J. Bentley et. al. It was published in the esteemed Spine Journal in February of 2019. (Azad TD 2019)

Why They Did It

The authors wanted to determine whether provider specialty influences patterns of opiate utilization long after initial diagnosis. I’d say that’s a great question to be asking these days. When we have 72,000 die in one year from opioid-related causes, that should be up there on the ‘what the hell’ list wouldn’t you agree?

How They Did It

The study was a retrospective longitudinal cohort analysis of patients diagnosed in 2010, with continuous enrollment 6 months prior to and 12 months following the initial visit.

They identified 478,981 newly diagnosed opiate-naive patients. 

They estimated the risk of early opiate prescription and long-term opiate use based on the provider type at initial diagnosis.

What They Found

  • 40.4% of the patients received an opiate prescription within 1 year and 4% met the criteria for long-term use. 
  • The most common provider was family practice. They were associated with 24.4% risk of early opiate prescription and a 2% risk of long-term opiate use. 
  • Risk o freceiving an early opiate prescription was higher among patients initially diagnosed by emergency medicine or at an urgent care. 
  • Risk of Long-term opiate use was highest for aptietns initially diagnosed by pain management doctors or by physical medicine and rehabiliation providers. 

Wrap It Up

Initial provider type influences early opiate prescription and long-term opiate use among opiate-naïve patients with newly diagnosed low back and lower extremity pain.

Looky here ya see, I’m just going to lay it out for you. Zero percent of opiate-naive patients get prescribed OR hooked on opiates from seeing a chiropractor. Zero. 

I’ll even go further than that and say that approximately 70-80% of them get good to excellent results and improvement of their complaint. I know this through the ChiroUp tracking system they use across the country. 

You know what else I know through the ChiroUp tracking? I know that these results happen in only about 7 visits. Kow a Chow!! I know you can’t see it but you can picture that karate chop placed precisely to deliver a virtual coup de grace. 

Alright, Enough silliness. On to out final item here. 

But before we do that –  Let’s take a short break to talk about ChiroUp. If you’re a regular listener of our podcast, you I use it and I’ve told everyone how amazing it is since about June of 2018. Well now they’re a sponsor of our show and we are really excited to have ChiroUp on board the train. 

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You can be confident that your patients are getting the best possible care, because the reports are populated based on what the literature recommends and isn’t that re-assuring? All of that work has been done FOR you. 

There are more than 1000 providers worldwide using ChiroUp to empower their treatments, patients, & practice – Including myself! **Short testimony**

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Item #3

Item #3 is an article titled “Could Craniocervical Instability Be Causing myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, Fibromyalgia & POTS?” written by Cort Johnson and published in Health on February 27, 2019. (Johnson 2019)

This was actually sent to me by a cardiologist friend of mine and I’m really glad he sent it my way because it’s interesting as hell. Follow along. 

I’ll read you the first paragraph here, “Jeff had a typical ME/CFS onset: he was a young, healthy and active individual before being felled by a viral infection and a high temperature. The infection left him with headaches, dizziness, muscle weakness and pain, sound and light sensitivity, and a general sense of being worn down that was exacerbated by exercise – which he soon had to stop altogether. Socializing was the next activity to go as he buckled down to focus on getting through graduate school.”

The article goes on to talk about all of his various visits to specialists and how nothing seemed to work. In fact, he continued to decline in health all of the way to the point that he was essentially bedridden with little to no tolerance for any kind of exertion. We’re talking little energy to chew food and being wheeled into the bathroom to take a shower. Serious stuff. 

Turning his head one way could cause him to nearly lose consciousness and he felt a little like a bobble doll when he walked. His head felt heavy. 

Doing his own homework to try to basically save his own life, he stumbled across craniocervical instability, aka atlantoaxial instability, aka cranial-cervical syndrome and things started to make sense for Jeff. 

Here’s another quoted paragraph from the article, “The strange headaches, the heavy head, the problems turning his head in one direction, the autonomic nervous system issues – they could all be explained by loosened or lax ligaments at the junction between his skull and his vertebrae which kept his head properly situated atop his body. 

With his head destabilized, his spinal column was contacting and compressing his brainstem – throwing his autonomic nervous and sensory systems out of whack. His ANS had become so disturbed that even during sleep when it theoretically should have been mostly at rest – it was oscillating up and down causing bizarre heart rates.”

Craniocervical instability has been associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, and other inflammatory conditions. The doctors were dismissive that, outside of any of these conditions, that he could actually have it. 

Just to expound on Ehlers Danlos a bit, one in 15 of EDS patients have craniocervical instability. 1 in 15 is a pretty good amount. Just another good reason to familiarize yourself with the Beighton scale and see if your EDS patients have other issues like we’re discussing here. 

It seems the correct imaging for CCI is a dynamic CT scan with flexion and extension view but not everyone can get dynamic CTs can they? I believe flexion and extension x-rays can give you a hint as well. 

So, skipping to the end of the story, Jeff had a fusion of the top two vertebrae to his skull and all symptoms poof disappeared. Which is awesome and good for him for diagnosing his issue and for being an advocate for himself. Those medical doctors can be a bit pesky when you go against what they think. 

The article also says there are only a few neurosurgeons in the world that can perform this sort of fusion. I sent the article to another friend of mine who just happens to be a neurosurgeon himself. He said that the whole article was really interesting and he was glad I sent it but he was confused why they think that there are only a few in the world that can do this surgery. He said they have to do it all of the time but, admittedly, it’s because of trauma. Not CCI. 

Still, it seem this is a surgery most neurosurgeons can do if needed. 

Great article, and great story that I’m linking in the show notes for you so click on it and check it out for yourself. There is a ton more with differenct patient stories so give it a read through. It’ll make you better. 

The Message

I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment instead of chemical treatments like pills and shots.

When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show that many patients get good or excellent results through chiropractic for headaches, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, to name just a few.

Chiropractic care is safe and cost-effective. It can decrease instances of surgery & disability. Chiropractors normally do this through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal time requirements or hassle to the patient. 

And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward from initial recovery, chiropractors can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health of the patient!

Key Point:

Patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment offering the least harm.

That’s Chiropractic!


Part of making your life easier is having the right patient education tools in your office. Tools that educate based on solid, researched information. We offer you that. It’s done for you. We are taking pre-orders right now for our brand new, evidence-based office brochures available at Just click the STORE link at the top right of the home page and you’ll be off and running. Just shoot me an email at if something is out of sorts or isn’t working correctly. 

If you’re like me, you get tired of answering the same old questions. Well, these brochures make great ways of educating while saving yourself time and breath. They’re also great for putting in take-home folders. 

Go check them out at under the store link. While you’re there, sign up for the newsletter won’t you? We won’t spam you. Just one email per week to remind you when the new episode comes out. That’s it. 


Send us an email at dr dot williams at and let us know what you think of our show or tell us your suggestions for future episodes. Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and so are subscribes and excellent reviews on iTunes and other podcast services. Y’all know how this works by now so help if you don’t mind taking a few seconds to do so.

Help us get to the top of podcasts in our industry. That’s how we get the message out. 


We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward. 


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About the Author & Host

Dr. Jeff Williams – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger


Azad TD, V. D., Bentley J, (2019). “Initial Provider Specialty Is Associated With Long-term Opiate Use in Patients With Newly Diagnosed Low Back and Lower Extremity Pain.” Spine 44(3): 211-218.

James G, K. D., Millecamps M, (2019). “ISSLS Prize in Basic science 2019: Physical activity attenuates fibrotic alterations to the multifidus muscle associated with intervertebral disc degeneration.” Euro Spine J 28(5): 893-904.

Johnson, C. (2019). “Could Craniocervical Instability Be Causing ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia & POTS? Pt I – The Spinal Series.” Health Rising.

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