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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 15, 2005, Vol. 23, Issue 02

The Evolution of Chiropractic

By Marc Heller, DC

I have been involved in the chiropractic profession for 28 years. It is fascinating to reflect on changes over that long of a period. I'd like to look at the evolution of the healing arts over this time, and where we are going in the next quarter century.

David Eisenberg's research has noted how much more popular alternative medicine in general has become over the past 25 years. This is a truly remarkable change. Those of us who started out in another era remember a different time, when alternative medicine and chiropractic were much less known and less respected.

I believe that the healing arts and chiropractic will look profoundly different in another 25 years. This could be titled, "Where the Left and Right Brain Meet." It could be titled, "Integrating the Rational and Intuitive." It could be "Quantum Influences on Everyday Life." I'll start with a couple of quotes from Larry Dossey's book, Healing Words (italics represent my additions):

"I came to realize the truth of what many historians of science have described: A body of knowledge that does not fit with prevailing ideas can be ignored as if it does not exist, no matter how scientifically valid it may be."

"The message of modern medical (and chiropractic) education (or the evidence-based approach) is clear: one must choose either logical analytical and rational approaches, or irrational, religious, superstitious and "right-brained" ones, which include prayer. But the choice between science and spirituality (or innate) appears increasingly artificial today, even from a scientific perspective. It is now possible to tell a new story, one that allows science and spirituality (or innate or intent) to stand side by side in a complementary way, neither trying to usurp or eliminate the other."

- Larry Dossey

Chiropractic has always embraced "Innate Intelligence," a concept not well-accepted in the medical-scientific paradigm. Many of us from more scientific schools have been trained to be skeptical of the Faith, Confidence, and Belief (FCB) model. I believe today that we can be both scientific and understand the power of intent. We can see good evidence that spirit and belief can have powerful effects on health. We can recognize that Old Dad Chiro's 100 percent belief in the power of the adjustment was truly a powerful tool to help his patients heal. Today, the incredible advances in science over the past 100 years, and popular books interpreting these advances, have given us a whole new view on the power of mind over matter. There are much more eloquent spokespersons for this perspective than me; I highly recommend Healing Words, which explores the scientific basis of prayer and its meaning for doctors and patients, as well as The Field, by Lynne McTaggert. An excellent list of books on the intersection of science and spirit is at

Dossey's book has a chapter titled, "Your Doctor's Beliefs and Why They Matter." He quotes several peer-reviewed studies that suggest doctors' beliefs, and/or doctors' skepticism, can alter the results of double-blind studies. A therapy applied by skeptic is much less effective than a therapy applied by someone enthusiastic about the therapy. The physician's attitude and belief strongly influence outcome. This is at the core of the "experimenter effect."

This concept is also at the center of our chiropractic practices. What does this mean for us? When I went to National in the late 70s, the level of academic training was excellent, but there were, in my opinion, problems with the clinical aspect of training. The academicians in charge of the technique department were of a "scientific" orientation, and some were skeptical about the existence of the primary entity we treat: the subluxation. In retrospect, I think that they fostered excellence in diagnosis, but potential weakness in treatment. You have to believe that what you do is powerful for your treatment to be powerful. We are constantly, unconsciously conveying a message to our patients in our every thought, intent and action.

I am not a "true believer." I always step back and attempt to look with clear eyes, and with intellectual honesty, at what I am doing, and at my results. I have been blessed over the 24 years of my career to find techniques that I could get excited about, and that allowed me to express Faith, Confidence, and Belief (FCB) to my patients. I have always found my link to FCB in my excitement about learning, about the wonders of chiropractic techniques. My message to you is, "Find your chiropractic bliss, and follow it." I mean that you need to find something in chiropractic that you can get behind, study and master, believe in, and express this powerfully to your patients. Your results will improve, your practice will grow, and so will your level of satisfaction and happiness.

Along these same lines of looking at the intersection of the quantum world and the everyday, I want to recommend a new documentary/drama. It's called, "What the Bleep Do We Know?" It's an independent film, but it recently began nationwide distribution. Check out for more information. "What the Bleep" takes these newer ideas from quantum physics, and embeds a wonderful Alice in Wonderland-like adventure, starring Marlee Matlin. It's also a powerful documentary, interviewing scientists, physicians, and mystics, with incredible special effects about brain physiology. One of the best interviews is with one of our own, Joe Dispensa, DC. Part of Dr. Joe's interview is a segment called "Create Your Day." It's both practical and inspirational; you can check it out at

I interviewed Joe Dispensa for this article. I'll not quote him verbatim, but just give you some highlights. Our focus was functional neurology. Recent neurological research emphasizes the plasticity (the ability to change) of the brain and nervous system. Dr. Joe focused on the neural net: "cells that fire together wire together." This means that our repetitive or changing thoughts are what makes our neurological networks entrain to particular beliefs or concepts, whether we are talking about chronic pain, or talking about the scope of our beliefs. Our job is to give our patients new options. Information is our currency as doctors.

Here are three aspects of information. It can be didactic, as in a new idea that someone has never thought of. Second, information can be body-centered, as in the barrage of afferent information coming from a joint that has not moved properly, and is now freed by the adjustment. Retraining someone to move differently by doing a movement or exercise that breaks their old habit patterns is another body-centered way to change their neural net. The third aspect of information is our intent, our beliefs, the pictures and images that we hold, the space we hold for our patients, that allows them to imagine the world differently. When someone separates from their old neural net, their old thought patterns, they have the opportunity to reinvent themselves and create profound change. This is not just a psychological concept, but also a real change in the function of the brain and neural net.

The idea that our thoughts create our reality can be concretely seen. I know we have all observed this in our practices, if we are paying attention. "What the Bleep Do We Know" features pictures from a book, Messages from Water. These pictures, dark-field photomicrographs of frozen water crystals, are truly astonishing. The two pictures (below), reproduced with permission, are of distilled water that had the caption words taped onto the water overnight, prior to the photo being taken. A link to some of these pictures is also on the movie's Web site:

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

I have taken a huge topic and tried to give you an overview. We are on the cutting edge of these new concepts in healing. Chiropractic can embrace the innate intelligence of the body, enhance it, and integrate the latest in mind/body/spirit research. Enjoy the next quarter century of wonder.

References and Resources

  1. Special thanks to Les Feinberg, DC, who reawakened my interest in chiropractic as energetic healing.
  2. Dossey, Larry. Healing Words, a well-referenced book on the power of prayer.
  3. Emoto, Masura. Messages from Water.
  4. Dispensa, Joe - personal conversations.
  5. McTaggert, Lynne. The Field.

Click here for more information about Marc Heller, DC.


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