disc bulge

The Fate Of An OxyContin Producer & The Outdated Use of MRI Diagnosing Cervical Dysfunction

CF 150: The Fate Of An OxyContin Producer & The Outdated Use of MRI Diagnosing Cervical Dysfunction  Today we’re going to talk about the outdated use of MRI to diagnose cervical dysfunction and then the fate of an oxycontin producer.   But first, here’s that sweet sweet bumper music

Chiropractic evidence-based products

Integrating Chiropractors

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OK, we are back and you have found the Chiropractic Forward Podcast where we are making evidence-based chiropractic fun, profitable, and accessible while we make you and your patients better all the way around.  We’re the fun kind of research. Not the stuffy, high-brow kind of research. We’re research talk over a couple of beers. I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.   If you haven’t yet I have a few things you should do. 

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Do it do it do it. 

CF 013: DEBUNKED: The Odd Myth That Chiropractors Cause Strokes (Part 1 of 3)


You have found yourself smack dab in the middle of Episode #150 Now if you missed last week’s episode, we talked about the costs of preventable disease, and then we’ll talk about whole-body vibration for function and bone mineral density in postmenopausal, osteoporotic women. Make sure you don’t miss that info. Keep up with the class.  While we’re on the topic of being smart, did you know that you can use our website as a resource?

Quick and easy, you can go to chiropracticforward.com, click on Episodes, and use the search function

On the personal end of things…..

On the personal side of things, it’s an alright week. Nothing too crazy other than the rise in the Rona around the nation. We got my biggest week last week since Rona hit us. We had 170 visits last week. Still down from my average of 182 pre-Rona but way up from an average of 135-145 post-Rona.

So progress. Then this week, we’re having three days of snow, ice, and sleet. So….it’s a Texas Two-Step. Two steps forward and one step back. Patience is a virtue. Blah. Such is life.

I thought I’d share a recent experience with you all in an effort to let you know you’re not alone, we can’t make them all happy, and how I handled it.

So last weekend I got an email. It wasn’t positive. In fact, it was a bit combative. Let’s just say it wasn’t flattering. Now, I’d like to be fair to myself here. In 22+ years, I’ve had conflict or whatever you want to call it….let’s call it miscommunication. I’ve had a miscommunication with patients only 3-4 times. Five if I’m pushing it. But this goes to serve as an example, you’re never too old or in practice too long to be above being questioned. In fact, in today’s culture of disrespecting ‘experts’ for lack of a better word, questioning authority, and an overall culture of lacking mutual respect…..well, I think it makes sense that we’re all more likely to have some miscommunication issues here and there. 

Then, online reviews throw a whole other kink into the plan, doesn’t it? So, due to respect for this person and HIPAA, I will be very vague here but in general, this person had significant cervical disc radiculopathy. Sometimes you make a diagnosis and you’re not 100% sure but you’re heading that direction. Not with this one. There was no doubt. They were very upset. Crying. Nauseous. Not feeling well and rating the pain at a 7 out of 10 on the VAS scale. 

We tried some over-the-door traction but it really made the person nauseous so that was out. I tried some retraction/extension exercises and started them on nerve gliding exercises to try to make some headway.  The second treatment comes and we are able to do a little more. Now they’re rating it at a 4 out of 10. Looks like we’re on easy street right? We got this!!

We did very light decompression and the patient said it felt good and they were doing better.  OK. Whew. Another one on the road to avoiding surgery.  Not so fast. For whatever reason, this patient never showed up again. I don’t always think about my patients but I did think about this one because they were so severe on day one. I wondered how they were doing and why I never saw them again. 

Well, this weekend’s email answered that for me. There’s no need to read the whole email just because there’s no need but the sentiment of it was that I had a conversation with them that they characterized as saying that anxiety was causing the pain and that I told them I couldn’t help them. What they took from the conversation was that I should have ordered an MRI on day one basically, that I blamed mental and emotional issues on the part of the patient for their pain and they felt that was unprofessional and uneducated. And potentially ego-driven on top of all of that. They mentioned they sought out an MRI, went to a neurosurgeon, and had a two-level fusion, and are on the road to recovery with the help of PT.



Oh….you know I’m always honest with you folks because honestly, that’s not flattering stuff. Nobody wants to look into themselves and say, “Does this person have a point? Where did I go wrong and how can I prevent that from happening again with someone else? But here’s the truth, I literally don’t recall that conversation whatsoever. I have a thousand different conversations every week. But I know me. I’ve never in my life told a patient that they have mental or emotional problems and those are the source of their pain. Nor have I ever insinuated that anxiety is the pain source when it’s clear as a bell that it’s radiculopathy secondary to a disc issue. My staff has heard me repeat the same discussions, the same lines, and the same jokes day after day, month after month and they’ll be the first to tell you I’ve never said anything of the sort. 

So, flummoxed as I have been, I slept on that email for the rest of the weekend thinking about it. The last thing you want to do is respond out of anger. You definitely don’t want to respond out of a defensive posture. Especially when you’re reasonably sure you did nothing uneducated or ego-driven. A response like that will only make us look more unprofessional than they already think we are and maybe even potentially provoke. 

So, in short, I did not address the ego comment because I felt it was unnecessary. I’ll just take my lumps on that one. I mentioned how happy I was to hear from them and hear they are recovering. I genuinely was glad. Even if the email was less than flattering.  At least they got some aspect of a resolution. Even if I wasn’t the end solution. I don’t feel there’s any ego on my part in that sentiment. 

I explained that we typically do a trial treatment of a week or two before deciding on advanced imaging and that would have definitely been in the considerations had we treated beyond two appointments. That’s appropriate. Some can make an argument that there was radiculopathy so we could have gotten an MRI on day one. But, if we’re honest, how many patients do you have that have radiculopathies that you are able to clear fairly quickly without resorting to an MRI? My guess is quite a few because that’s my experience. We just don’t have to get very many. But again, we have to have the chance to find out, right?

I discussed briefly that I am very much on top of current research and thinking with regards to pain and neuromusculoskeletal issues and may have been assessing yellow flags. I discussed briefly what the biopsychosocial aspect of treatment entails these days but didn’t want to dwell on it much. Mostly because I never felt it was anxiety, mental, emotional driven thing to start with. It was clearly a disc. But I hope the mention somehow rebuts the idea that I need more education. 

I offered that as a potential reason we may have had some miscommunication.  I also mentioned that there have been very few patients over the years that I would just straight up tell them “I can’t help you.” I told them that I’m typically one of the most stubborn practitioners and will hold on until it’s crystal clear I’m not helping. That, for me, has never happened after only two visits.  In a nutshell, I said that being patient-centered, evidence-based, and having high patient satisfaction was the most important thing to me and that I don’t recall the exact conversation or the wording but that I can learn from the email and can use it to make me better at my job and that I appreciated them taking the time to share their thoughts with me. 

In the end, I was glad to hear about them feeling better and I apologized for any miscommunication on my end.  While that sounds like a very long email, it wasn’t and I took the time to make sure it was hopefully as eloquent as a guy like myself can generate. Without arrogance, ego, combativeness, or being defensive. But WITH being caring, being professional, and being thoughtful. 

Even though it may not be reciprocated, I respect this person and I DO hope they are feeling better. And, whether we feel like these things are our fault or whether we think we did anything wrong or not, we can ALWAYS always learn from stuff like this. We can always be better. I can promise you, I learned to not be lackadaisical when it comes to speaking to patients about central nervous system upregulation or sensitization. Or when discussing the biopsychosocial aspect of pain. 

People don’t know what we know about that stuff and we shouldn’t assume that it’s an easy topic and everyone ‘gets it.’ Or will get it. I really cannot explain what happened there but, I do know it made me step back and think through it though. It made me check my communication. 

Again, I don’t tell you all this stuff because I love it or love to talk about it. I don’t tell you all my patient numbers weekly because I love it. I share this stuff with you because what is happening with me is real. It’s real life. And if it’s happening to me, then it IS happening to many of you. And if it’s not currently happening to you, it CAN or WILL and you may learn from me.  Not as a mentor per se but as that Ol’ Uncle Jeffro.

Alright, enough with the stress talk. Geez. Not very often at all. Maybe once every 5 years or so but when it happens……geesh. I take it personally, I take it home, I dwell on it, and I’m not too proud to admit that it affects me.

I care.

I truly do.

If you get anything from this podcast and all of these episodes, it should be that I care. I care about chiropractic patients, our profession, ethics, morals, professionalism, education, and doing it the right way. 

I care. 

Item #1 Let’s start out with this article that was in CNN Business last week. It’s an article by Chris Isidore called, “OxyContin maker to plead guilty to federal criminal charges, pay $8 billion, and will close the company”(Isidore 2020). It was published on October 21, 2020, it’s cold as hell in Texas but that….that’s hot.  The highlights of the article are that Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay more than $8 billion. Not only pay $8 billion but to also close down the company.  What? Yeah, they say the money will go to opioid treatment and abatement programs. “Purdue Pharma actively thwarted the United States’ efforts to ensure compliance and prevent diversion,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Administrator Tim McDermott. “The devastating ripple effect of Purdue’s actions left lives lost and others addicted.” They say, “The company doesn’t have $8 billion in cash available to pay the fines. So Purdue will be dissolved as part of the settlement, and its assets will be used to create a new “public benefit company” controlled by a trust or similar entity designed for the benefit of the American public.

Adjusting Disc Herniations and Bulges


The Justice Department said it will function entirely in the public interest rather than to maximize profits. Its future earnings will go to paying the fines and penalties, which in turn will be used to combat the opioid crisis.” Maybe it’s just me but that sounds Big Brother as hell to me. Don’t get me wrong, pharma companies, in many instances, are of the devil but to dissolve them, then recreate them and they be basically government run? I don’t know about all that but to me, that’s what this sounds a bit like. 

They go on to say, “That new company will continue to produce painkillers such as OxyContin, as well as drugs to deal with opioid overdose. “The company, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019, pleaded guilty to violating federal anti-kickback laws, as it paid doctors ostensibly to write more opioid prescriptions.” What a-holes. Paid doctors to write more opioid prescriptions. And what a-hole of a doctor do you have to be to take payment to write addicting prescriptions in the first damn place? Honestly.  Meanwhile, we recently crossed the 450,000 dead mark.

Dead from opioid-related overdoses. All the while we evidence-based chiropractors sit and watch stuff we could help treat just spiral out of control. We’re sitting on the bench waiting for the coach to put us in the game but we just rarely get our number called.  If they want to make surgeons the quarterback of the football team, at least we could be the running back or tight end or something. Geez.

We could be a key part of the pain team and research has told the stakeholders several times. But nope. We’re stuck riding the pine.  A little further down in the article, my worries are actually hit on when they say, “So some states are objecting to the settlement. Twenty-five state attorneys general wrote to US Attorney General William Barr last week arguing against the plan to create a government-controlled company out of the assets of Purdue Pharma, arguing that the government should not be in the business of selling OxyContin.”

And I agree with the 25 state attorneys general. That, to me, is not what American was built on.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about punishing the hell out of a corrupt and evil company like Purdue Pharma. I’m even all about putting them out of business. Hell, the Statler family that runs this business pulled $10 billion out of the company and placed into family trusts before filing bankruptcy. It’s a bad group of people. Lop they’re damn heads off if you think they deserve it…..OK, maybe not to that extent but you get my point. 

But, putting a company out of business and then stepping in as the government to take it over and run it…..no. I don’t like it. But that’s just me. 


Item #2

Alright, my last one today is called “Twenty years of ‘insanity’ in diagnosing underlying clinically relevant cervical dysfunction using traditional MRI” by Anton Bowden(Bowden 2018) and published in the Journal of Spine Surgery in September of 2018 and it goes a little sumpin’ like dis. 

Why They Did It

Bowden starts by saying “Studies dating back several decades have failed to show a strong correlation between abnormal MRI scans of the intervertebral discs and clinical symptoms. Which you know if you’ve been following along. This is part of why the patient I mentioned earlier was mad at me for not immediately ordering an MRI. 

He continues, “The recently published 20-year prospective longitudinal study of cervical spine disc degeneration” by Daimon et al.(Daimon K 2019), is perhaps the strongest confirmation to date affirming that intervertebral discs naturally degenerate with age, and that evidence of degeneration alone is insufficient information with which to make a conclusion regarding the root cause of a patient’s symptoms.” We have covered that paper here on the Chiropractic Forward Podcast before.   They discuss the study at length saying, “Daimon et al. found that while MRI signal intensity longitudinally decreases across all cervical disc levels, there is a peak in structural degeneration that occurs at the C5–C6 level, with C4–C5 and C3–C4 having progressively lower degeneration rates. Since the C5–C6 level also corresponds with the highest flexion-extension range of motion of the cervical spine, a mechanical component of the degeneration process appears to be highlighted by the study.

Common Surgeries Aren’t Well-Researched & Chiropractic Wins Again


Once the C5–C6 level has been destabilized due to degeneration, sequential acceleration of degeneration at adjacent levels was observed. This insight has relevance to current discussions regarding adjacent-segment disease subsequent to arthrodesis and arthroplasty. The authors also observed that 95% of subjects experienced degenerative progression over the 20-year study period, while only 67% developed clinical symptoms. This observation lends strength to the argument that trying to fight all forms of disc degeneration is an insolvable fight against nature, at least for the foreseeable future.” I was happy to see him mention this, “As a biomechanist, I would be remiss to point out that imaging alone is missing fundamental information regarding the dynamic function of the spine. Spines that look very similar while lying down in the MRI may move very differently while going about activities of daily living—and the consequences can be dramatic for mechanical loading and pain in the discs and adjacent spinal structures “  Here on the show in some of the earlier episodes, we covered the fact that discs that show little to no issues in the supine position can look very different when seated or standing.

Significantly different as a matter of fact. The research has been done on this yet I’ve had discussions with two separate radiologists and both of them guessed there would be little to no change in the disc with position change.  That’s just not the case, is it? I’m happy to see this author recognize the fact.  Alright, that’s it. Y’all be safe. Keep changing our profession from your little corner of the world.

Keep taking care of yourself and everyone around you. Tough times are upon us but, the sun will shine again. Trust it, believe it, count on it. Let’s get to the message. Same as it is every week.  Store Remember the evidence-informed brochures and posters at chiropracticforward.com.   

Chiropractic evidence-based products

Integrating Chiropractors

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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 rather than chemical treatments like pills and shots. When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show us patients can get good to excellent results for headaches, neck pain, back pain, and joint pain to name just a few. It’s safe and cost-effective can decrease surgeries & disability and we do it through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal hassle to the patient. And, if the patient treats preventativly after initial recovery, we can usually keep it that way while raising the overall level of health!

Key Point: At the end of the day, patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment that offers the least harm. When it comes to non-complicated musculoskeletal complaints…. That’s Chiropractic!

Contact Send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you think of our show and tell us your suggestions for future episodes.  Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and so are subscribes and excellent reviews on podcast platforms.  We know how this works by now. If you value something, you have to share it, interact with it, review it, talk about it from time to time, and actively hit a few buttons to support it here and there when asked. It really does make a big difference. 

Connect 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.

Website http://www.chiropracticforward.com

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About the Author & Host Dr. Jeff Williams – Fellow of the International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger  


  • Bowden, A. (2018). “Twenty years of ‘insanity’ in diagnosing underlying clinically relevant cervical dysfunction using traditional MRI.” J Spine Surg 4(3).
  • Daimon K, F. H., Nishiwaki Y, (2019). “A 20-year prospective longitudinal MRI study on cervical spine after whiplash injury: Follow-up of a cross-sectional study.” J Ortho Science 24(4): 579-583.
  • Isidore, C. (2020) “OxyContin maker to plead guilty to federal criminal charges, pay $8 billion, and will close the company.” CNN Business.


CF 035: Chiropractic & Disc Herniations

Chiropractic and Disc HerniationsIntegrating Chiropractors

Today we’re going to kick around information on disc herniations, disc bulging, and radiculopathy as a result. Is there anything we can do about it? Well, I’m a chiropractic advocate and research backs us on it so I’ll say, “Hell yes.” Come along with us, won’t you?


First, I feel some sweet sweet bumper music moving in….


OK, we are back. Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.


Now that I have you here, I want to ask you to go to chiropracticforward.comand sign up for our newsletter. It makes it easier to let you know when the newest episode goes live and it makes me feel good. Don’t you like to make people feel good? Of course, you do so….do it do it.


Also, our group on Facebook. It’s called the Chiropractic Forward Group and I think that’s as appropriate of a name as I could come up with. Lol. Just in case you didn’t know, there’s the page on Facebook. That’s for getting the word out and telling people about the podcast. Then there’s the private group. That’s for interacting with each other, learning from each other, posting new papers when they come out, and maybe organizing into a powerful group someday, somewhere down the line. That sort of deal must grow organically. It can’t be forced so we won’t try to do that.


We’ll just let you all know about its existence and hope to start seeing you over there. Let’s start a conversation outside of the podcast!


We are honored to have you listening. Now, here we go with some vital information that we think can build confidence and improve your practice which will improve your life overall.


You have back-flipped head-on into Episode #35


Before we talk about all of the disc herniations stuff, I want to tell you all about my weekend. I spent Saturday and part of Sunday morning with my butt firmly planted in a chair in a hotel conference room listening to Dr. Brandon Steele talk about shoulder issues. He was the teacher as his company ChiroUp was a sponsor of the event but he was there teaching as part of the DACO program which is run by the University of Bridgeport.


What the heck is DACO right? Well, what used to be called DABCO is now called a DACO which stands for Diplomate of American Chiropractic Orthopedists. I have mentioned before where I sat through the first 10 DACO hours back in June. That was over the low back. These ten were over the shoulder. Topics covered included Scapular Dyskinesis. I knew nothing of this mess and, I already identified and started working with one of these patients the day after I got home. We also covered shoulder impingement, rotator cuff issues, thoracic outlet syndrome, and adhesive capsulitis to name a few.


Good stuff all around and, even if I don’t go all the way through the DACO program, I get better and better every time I take a class. And not just better. I get exponentially better.


In talking with Dr. Steele this weekend, he agreed to come on to the podcast as a guest. We’ll get that all lined up. I have a ton of questions for him. Some questions about the DACO program, some about ChiroUp (it’s really a game-changer and you better use my name if you sign on!!!), and I want to ask him about practice standardization and some things along those lines. It should be a fun conversation so make sure you keep your eyes out for it in the near future.


I encourage you…..a lot of what we talk about here is integrating with the medical community and really stepping up. Part of that is taking the steps to get educated at higher and higher levels. The DACO is in line with that. I have zero association with the people running it other than the fact that I love the product they have created and use it regularly. There is nothing in it as far as reimbursement goes. I just believe in what they’re doing. I encourage you all to look into this DACO program. If you don’t know where to start, just email me at dr.williams@chiropracticforward.com and I’ll get you pointed in the right direction.


Now, on to disc herniations


Have you ever been told we can’t do anything for discs? Have you been told to not adjust if they have a low back disc issue? Do you know how to recognize a disc issue? What’s the best way to treat it? So many questions!!

Here’s the deal for me today. I’m no guru. I’m going to throw research on you but in the end, a lot of it is just experience. So, don’t take my word as the gold standard. I didn’t expect you to anyway but, I wanted to be sure. Lol.


Let’s look first at recognizing disc herniations. There are some simple questions that can get you moving in the right direction on this:

  • Do you have static position irritation meaning, do you have to move around in your chair often to get comfortable?
  • Do you have pain going from seated to standing?
  • Is there a positive Milgram’s
  • How about a positive Modified Slump test?
  • Valsalva’s is part of that but some do it separately.
  • Same with SLR. I was taught that pain on SLR in the first 30 degrees, when the nerve is first tensioned, was indicative of a disc issue but the DACO folks say it’s between 30 and 70 degrees.
  • Worst position is seated
  • Best is lying down
  • Deep buttock pain
  • Pain in the first 1/3 of trunk flexion or trunk extension that cannot be alleviated by bracing or tightening a belt around the waist.
  • Radiating pain into the leg
  • As a general rule of thumb, the further pain radiates beyond the knee, the more likely it is caused by a disc.
  • Sometime you’ll encounter diminished reflexes or differences in sensory or motor information from side to side.


When should we get an MRI for disc herniations and other issues? Red flags like the history of cancer, fever, chills, recent unexplained weight loss, immunosuppression, and corticosteroid use give you a reason. Symptoms lasting longer than 6 weeks or symptoms showing progressive neurological deficit also give you a reason to get that MRI.


What can we do about it?

Again, that’s going to depend on who you ask. Are we going by The Lancet? Why not go by some chiropractic gurus? We can go by the medical fields recommendation or by physical therapists techniques? I say yes, yes, and yes.


I had a neurosurgeon buddy of mine tell me, whatever the hell works without doing surgery…..do that. I agree. That’s why we are friends coincidentally.


So, knowing all of that, I’m going to tell you what has been effective for me in my practice. The first thing is something that the insurance companies call experimental and investigational. I think they’re full of it. They don’t seem to be in any hurry to pick up new services to have to pay for, do they? But you know what? I’d rather them NOT cover it so we can actually get paid what it is worth.


What I’m talking about here is decompression for disc herniations. This was a game-changer for me in my practice. I have three short stories for you here. They all have to do with guys I tried to send to the surgeon. I’m not going into why we ordered the MRIs or the exam findings. It would take too long for this format so we’re going to jump to the chase in each of their cases.


  1. The first is a dude was in town visiting for work and was only going to be here for a few months before returning home. The MRI showed us that his disc herniations was 14 mm caudal migration. I sent him straight to the surgeon. The surgeon set him up for surgery in 6 weeks. The guy was on board with having surgery but couldn’t wait 6 weeks for some kind of relief. Any kind of relief. He begged me to do decompression. I figured that we could go light. In the end, it’s traction and he had no contraindications to decompression so we did it. This guy was back to working and dancing around in the office in about a week and a half y’all. If you want to say it’s placebo, that’s OK, we’re just going to disagree. If you want to say people just like to be touched and I could have pulled on his big toe and it may have had the same effect, I’m going to tell you to jump in a lake.
  2. The second was a guy that was a truck driver. He was in his 70’s and had had heart surgeries and was on blood thinners. He was a physical wreck honestly. When he came in, he was in a wheelchair and unable to work or function. I got an MRI and his herniation was posterior with 18 mm of caudal migration. That used to be a ticket to the surgeon so off he went. Well, his cardiologist would not take him off of the blood thinners so surgery was out of the question. He came back to me just like the other case we discussed. He had no other options and would I please do decompression on him to try to get him some relief. It had been going for quite some time. OK, sure. I’m a nice guy but I told him, I doubt it’s going to help something like you have going on. Yeah, yeah, yeah, hook me up, please. So we did. Guess what? He came in just a time or two later on a walker instead of a wheelchair. Then, a week or so later, he came in without a walker. Then a month or two down the road, he got a new job and was out there telling everyone that would listen about what we were able to do for him. You can take a long walk off a short pier if you’re going to suggest that was anything other than significant effects due to direct intervention.
  3. Last and worst of all disc herniations I’ve ever seen. He is actually a good friend of mine. He came in with numbness and weakness all the way into his foot. Limping, the whole deal. He worked in a warehouse and would have to be forklifted to the second floor where his office is because he couldn’t get there any other way. He thinks it was due to a motorcycle wreck several years ago. Whatever the cause, it was pretty crazy. His MRI showed disc herniations of 23mm of caudal migration. Almost all the way down to the next disc below. I had never seen that before and haven’t seen it since. I, of course, told him he needed to go to the surgeon muy pronto. He agreed but his wife, bless her heart, did not. And thank goodness. She was adamant about him not going to the surgeon. She strongly urged him to not go until he at least gave decompression a try. I told him about the first two cases we just talked about but that he was really in a different ballpark than those guys and I really didn’t know how I could help at all. They understood but decided to give it a go anyway. And thank God they did. Sometimes our patients teach us instead of us teaching them, don’t they? It took a couple of months but he started to turn around and never had that surgery. I just checked with him the other day, 2 years later, and he’s doing great. He said he has a little numbness in the outside of his foot but nothing bad and nothing he can’t handle. All’s well and guess who the hero is? Well….his wife. She’s the hero. Lol. I’m still the buddy and buddies can’t be heroes.


These are the worst of the worst disc herniations but what about all of the others that were more minor disc herniations? Think of all of the successes we have had with disc herniations over the years. When I say it’s a game-changer, I damn well mean it and, once again, I care not what insurance companies have to say about it.


Let’s look at some papers on it.


This one is called “Simple pelvic traction gives inconsistent relief to herniated lumbar disc sufferers” by Edward Eyerman, MD. It was published in the Journal of Neuroimaging in June of 1998[1].


Why They Did It

The aim was to do before and after MRIs to correlate improvement in the clinic with MRI evidence in terms of disc herniations repair in the annulus, nucleus, facet joint, or in the foramen as a result of decompression treatment.


Eyerman was testing the effectiveness of decompression in a sample of 12 men and 8 women aged 26-74. No, not a big sample.

His MRI finding was as follows:

Disc Herniations: 10 of 14 improved significantly, some globally, some at least locally at the site of the nerve root compression.

Measured improvement in local or general disc herniation size varied in the range of 0% in 2 patients, 20% in 4 patients, 30% to 50% in 4 patients and a remarkable 90 % in 2 patients that did all 40 sessions.

As far as clinical outcomes of the subjects go, he noted that all but 3 patients had very significant pain relief, complete relief of weakness when present, and of immobility and of all numbness except for in 1 patient with herniation and 2 with foraminal stenosis without herniation.

Summed up, he said “Serial MRI imaging of 20 patients treated with the decompression table shows in our study up to 90% reduction of subligamentous nucleus herniation in 10 of 14. Some rehydration occurs detected by T2 and proton density signal increase. Torn annulus repair is seen in all. Transligamentous ruptures show lesser repair. Facet arthrosis can be shown to improve chiefly by pain relief.

Then we have this one by Thomas Gionis, MD published in the Orthopedic Technology Review in December of 2003[2].

They concluded, “Results showed that 86% of the 219 patients who completed the therapy reported immediate resolution of symptoms, while 84% remained pain-free 90 days post-treatment. Physical examination findings showed improvement in 92% of the 219 patients, and remained intact in 89% of these patients 90 days after treatment.”

When is surgery necessary? Well, that’s going to depend on who you ask but a good general rule I follow is that cauda equina syndrome is a quick trip to a surgeon. I personally don’t like foot drop and am likely to send to a surgical consult. I think any progressive worsening of neuro symptoms is cause to pause and reconsider whatever you’re doing. If what you’re doing ain’t fixing it, change directions.


But there is this paper I found interesting. It’s from 2010 and called “Spontaneous Regression for a Large Lumbar Disc Extrusion[3]” by Ryu Sung-Joo, MD and was published online for the Journal of Korean Neurosurgical Society. I have no idea what the quality of this journal is or what the impact is but it’s interesting and I’ve seen studies before about spontaneous resolution of disc herniations.


The authors say, “Although the spontaneous disappearance or decrease in the size of a herniated disc is well known, that of a large extruded disc has rarely been reported. This paper reports a case of a spontaneous regression of a large lumbar disc extrusion. The disc regressed spontaneously with clinical improvement and was documented on a follow-up MRI study 6 months later.”


The case report was on a 53-year-old female after 6 months of low back pain and left lateral leg pain with numbness. Y’all go to the show notes and get the reference to this paper. The MRI images are great.


They mention, “After conservative treatment, her clinical symptoms subsided gradually but the numbness of her left lateral leg still remained. A second MRI study performed approximately 6 months after the prior examination reveals almost complete disappearance of the extruded fragment that had been located posterolateral to the L5 vertebral body and no evidence of compression or displacement of the dural sac or nerve root.” Wowza.


They go on to explain, “Our patient is an example of the resolution of a large protruded disc without surgery. This phenomenon may be due in part to the fact that larger fragments have a higher water content8) and may regress through dehydration/shrinkage, retraction, and inflammation-mediated resorption.” Meaning….her body ate it and it went bye bye.


They finished up the paper by saying, “Even in patients with large lumbar disc extrusion, non-surgical conservative care can be considered as an option for the treatment when radiculopathy is acceptable and neurological deficit is absent.“

That’s pretty cool. I don’t think surgeons are going to want to hear it but it’s cool. If all they can do is surgery on cauda equina or foot drop, they’re going to have a hard time financially.


Alright, moving beyond decompression or spontaneous resorption, what else can we do?


Here’s one I got from Dr. Tim Bertlesman. It was authored by G McMorland and called “Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study[4].” This one was published in the Journal of Manipulative Physiology and Therapeutics in 2010 and goes like this. The authors concluded, “Sixty percent of patients with sciatica who had failed other medical management benefited from spinal manipulation to the same degree as if they underwent surgical intervention. Of the 40% left unsatisfied, subsequent surgical intervention confers excellent outcome. Patients with symptomatic LDH failing medical management should consider spinal manipulation followed by surgery if warranted.“


Go check it out in the show notes if you want the nuts and bolts and bells and whistles, please.


Then there are your directional preferences exercises. If you have not familiarized yourself with directional preferences, please do so yesterday. They are based upon the idea of centralization and peripheralization. McKenzie’s program uses it, the CRISP protocol uses it, Kennedy’s decompression system uses it, and the DACO program teaches it. Do you see a pattern of some sort emerging here?


Other things that are helpful are exercise recommendations like McKenzie or Williams exercises depending on the directional preference, core building.


These patients also need strong at-home suggestions like:

  • Get an inversion table for the house.
  • Get back to work as soon as possible
  • Don’t lay up in bed hoping it goes away
  • Sleep correctly
  • Work advice like get up and walk every 45 minutes or so
  • Don’t use catastrophic language and make sure they know it’s not a disease and most disc cases resolve


I don’t have all of the answers but, I’m guessing none of you do either. In the end, it’s experience, isn’t it? For example, without experience, I wouldn’t have known that it COULD be possible to help three guys with caudal migration of a disc from 14mm all the way up to 23mm. Nothing but experience can show someone that.


While we don’t know it all, we DO find means that are effective and help us get the job done and make a difference in our patients’ lives. That’s for sure.

This week, I want you to go forward with the knowledge that, in case you didn’t already know it, you’re powerful. You can take disc herniations that used to be sent straight to surgery and you can treat that complaint with safe, conservative, non-invasive, and non-pharmacologic means. That’s a hell of a deal right there, folks.


We’re not done talking about disc herniations, decompression, and all of that fun stuff. There’s too much left in the tank to be done but, in the interest of time, we’ll get to it on another episode.


Integrating Chiropractors


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 a mechanical pain and responds better to mechanical treatment instead of chemical treatments.


The literature is clear: research and experience show that, in 80%-90% of headaches, neck, and back pain, patients get good to excellent results when compared to usual medical care and it’s safe, less expensive, and decreases chances of surgery and disability. It’s done conservatively and non-surgically with little time requirement or hassle for the patient. If done preventatively going forward, we can likely keep it that way while raising overall health! At the end of the day, patients have the right to the best treatment that does the least harm and THAT’S Chiropractic, folks.


Send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.comand 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.


Being the #1 Chiropractic podcast in the world would be pretty darn cool.


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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  1. Eyerman E, e.a., MRI Evidence of Nonsurgical, Mechanical Reduction, Rehydration and Repair of the herniated Lumbar Disc.J Neuro Imaging, 1998. 8(2).
  2. Gionis T, Surgical Alternatives: Spinal Decompression.Orthopedic Technology Review, 2003. 6(5).
  3. Ryu Sung-Joo, Spontaneous Regression of a Large Lumbar Disc Extrusion.J Korean Neurosurg Soc., 2010. 48(3): p. 285-287.
  4. McMorland G, Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2010. 33(8): p. 576-584.


CF 027: WANTED – Safe, Nonpharmacological Means Of Treating Spinal Pain

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https://www.chiropracticforward.com/cf-019-non-opioid-more-effective-while-chiropractic-maintenance-may-be-the-most-effective/ Adolphus Washington Womens Jersey