Growing up as a kid, all Dr. Tim Hartman knew in his life was sports, sports, and sports. At sixteen years old, he was the quarterback of the football team. Life was looking good, until the rug was pulled from under him when he got blindsided by a linebacker while rolling out for a pass. He basically had his head go past his legs due to a hyperflexion. Dr. Tim was able to finish the game, but the next morning, his life changed forever. He recounts his almost futile search for healing to get his head on straight before he got introduced to a chiropractor who helped him to not only just heal but to show that this was his passion and mission in life. Dr. Tim talks about upper cervical chiropractic, Dynamic Essentials, and some of the cases he’s seen in his office.
Dr. Tim Hartman is an upper cervical knee chest chiropractor at the upper cervical spine center in Charlotte, North Carolina. When Dr. Hartman was in high school, he suffered a devastating football injury. Although he was not paralyzed, he lost his ability to walk. After the injury, Dr. Tim was not sure what to do. He lost his identity as an elite athlete and wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to play sports again. Dr. Hartman was lucky enough to find chiropractic and it completely saved his life and was able to continue playing sports. Now, Dr. Tim is sharing his message of upper cervical chiropractic with the world. This is what it’s all about. This is why we do what we do. Upper cervical chiropractic and save lives and help the body function to its optimal potential. Please welcome, Dr. Tim Hartman.
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Get Your Head On Straight with Dr. Tim Hartman
On this episode, we have an amazing guest, Dr. Tim Hartman. Dr. Tim, are you in South Carolina?
Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dr. Tim is an upper cervical chiropractor. His life was saved by chiropractic. That’s what the podcast is all about. He’s got an incredible life story. He’s on fire down there. He’s very passionate about what he does. It’s exciting to have him on the podcast. Dr. Tim, how are you doing?
I’m doing a fantastic and I’m super excited to be here. I like that it’s called Expect Miracles because every day is a miracle doing what we do. I’m honored to be here.
I’m not sure how exactly we got connected, but I kept seeing videos of you on Facebook. You’re so passionate about what you do. I’m excited to have you on. You have an incredible life story that I don’t know much about, but I’m excited to dive into. Tim, where are you from originally?
I was born in New Jersey, but I was only there for about eighteen months. I just know the town, South Plainfield area. It’s Central Jersey. I was in Virginia for a few years but I would call Raleigh, North Carolina definitely my home base.
What were you into growing up as a kid?
EM 86 | Head On Straight Head On Straight: When you know sports your whole entire life, to literally crawl out of bed was definitely surreal. You get everything stripped away from you.
It was sports and pretty much more sports. That’s all I do with my life.
Which ones did you gravitate to most?
Definitely soccer most of my life. I got swindled into doing football. Soccer was almost too easy. We would kill every team we played, so that got boring. Football was definitely a new and exciting challenge. There’s nothing like it. Even the college side, there’s nothing like Friday Night Lights. Football and basketball are my go-tos and I still play those.
You had a life-changing thing happened to you when you were sixteen. I still don’t know what this is, but I’m very excited to hear about it. What happened when you were sixteen that changed the course of your life forever?
Every time we do an orientation or explain the story, this is why we get up in the morning, this is why we sacrifice everything even for our families because of what has happened to us. We make sure it never happens to them. When I was sixteen, I was the quarterback of the football team. I was rolling out for a pass and I had a shoestring tackle on my foot. I’m trying to break away. I got blindsided by a linebacker in the neck having my head go past my legs to do, as we know, is called a hyperflexion. I felt this jolt go down my spine. I was able to finish the game, but the next morning, that’s when my life changed forever. My back was in such severe spasm, I couldn’t walk the next day.
How frightened were you?
You don’t know. All you know is sports your whole entire life and to literally crawl to get out of bed, it was definitely surreal. You get everything stripped away from you.
That’s your identity at that age. That’s what you do at that age. When that gets taken away from you, you have zero idea of who you are from that point on because that’s what you did and trained for your entire life.
That is exactly it. I wasn’t Tim Hartman. I was the quarterback of the football team. That was tough. Typically, a ten-minute routine that takes me to get to school, took me three hours to get there. The first person I see is my quarterback coach and he’s asking me about the injury and how it went.
Were you down for a while or you popped up?
I was down for a few minutes and then I got up. You could definitely tell something wasn’t right, something unlocked. The next morning, your body goes into that protective mechanism and it was locked. I couldn’t move it. I couldn’t twist it. When I was doing my thing, I was walking like a 90-year-old. I was close to the point where I needed a walker. I told him the story. I was like, “I’m in so much pain talking to you right now. There’s no way I can play or practice or whatever the case may be.” I went and I got stretched. I got iced. I got an ultrasound. My trainers, they told me after the first two days, “This is a pretty severe case. You need to get physical therapy.” I went to one of the finest facilities in Raleigh, North Carolina, Athletic Performance Center. I was training next to NFL athletes, guys that were training to go D-I in football. It was cool to be with these guys and I felt that hope. I was doing a lot of exercises, strengthening both sides, Biofreeze, and all that stuff. I was slowly getting better. I did see results after my three months of care there. I could get up to a very slight jog, which was amazing from walking like a 90-year-old. The hardest part where the story shifts is when I was gearing up for basketball season, I was hoping to play. I was shooting free throws. I went to stretch my legs and then it’s right back to square one. I felt that shocking sensation go down my entire spine. My back locked up.
On the free throw line?
Yes, on the free throw line. We weren’t playing the games. We were just shooting around. I left the gym. For a lack of better term, I crawled out of there, crying and bawling my eyes out. I drive home and the first person I see is my father and he asked me, “What’s going on? We were doing so great.” The base of the heart that made me cry the most is, “Dad, I’ll never be able to make you proud again.” As a sixteen-year-old, that’s all you know. That’s your identity. You can see even in your relationship with your father. That was definitely one of the lowest points in my life. Fortunately, my father was a pastor and he still is. There was a chiropractor in the congregation. He’s like, “Let’s go check these people out.” I never even heard of what a chiropractor was. We went there. He was showing me the x-ray. He was showing me where the issue was with my back, but he was telling me it was coming from my neck. I had no idea what he’s talking about but I trusted him. My dad had good results there, so we went. In the first visit, I definitely noticed a huge change. It was like, “This is definitely weird. I wasn’t walking or running.” My second visit after the visit, I was like, “I made more progress in two visits to this chiropractor than I did three months of physical therapy.” I knew I was locked in.
After that second adjustment, did you feel that you were back to your old self?
EM 86 | Head On Straight Head On Straight: When I commit to something, I commit to something. I don’t look back. Forget everything else and move forward.
Not 100%, but I was like, “This is different.” I’ve made more progress than in three months. I was like, “This is different. I feel clear. I feel like whatever God is telling me right now that this is my passion, this is my mission, forget everything else. Focus on getting great at this work.” I committed. I said, “What do I need to do? What schools do I need to go to? What do I need to study?” I was shadowing him. I was helping him out. I was all-in committed at sixteen. It helped me, knowing what I knew then to know at sixteen this is what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. That definitely kept me on a clear path. One thing that made sense went through our initial care plan, whatever the case, I was like, “Even at a young age without any education, it makes more sense for me to be proactive and not only go when I’m hurting.” It made sense. Innately, I knew at sixteen, “Why wouldn’t I stay in alignment as opposed go back?” I was like, “I’ll never go back.” I ended up getting a scholarship to play football at Campbell University, which is in Benson just north of Raleigh. I played there for a semester. To be honest, I hated it. I hated college football. I was getting sick. I was getting hurt. I go from the pretty boy QB to be in the safety where you sacrifice your body and the rest of the team.
I had a couple of my best friends play college football and their knees and their backs are shot.
I could tell that was the path I was going down. When you’re clear, you recognize things that are good for you and are not so good for you. Pride steps aside. I left there. I went to UNC Charlotte without even visiting the school. I committed. I took that leap and here we are having this interview. I’m super blessed. I finished there. I went to Sherman College.
I have never been there, but I heard it’s a great school.
You got to visit. You got to come down or something like that. Ed and Neil would be glad to have you and welcome you with open arms, especially an upper cervical doctor coming in.
The whole profession, it’s a great profession in general. If you’re doing solid chiropractic work, you’re getting results. As we know, there is a specialty or niche within the chiropractic field that you and I both do. How did you get into upper cervical chiropractic?
Speaking of Neil Cohen, he was the first one that introduced me. I got wrapped up into going into this thing. Before I was a chiropractic student, I was advised to go to something called Dynamic Essentials or DE as it’s known. Neil Cohen was there. I went through a couple things. He’s like, “You got to try this knee chest stuff.” Neil Cohen gave me my first knee chest adjustment and I had chiropractic up to that point. It was like a different switch was lit off. I got up. He adjusted me. I literally felt a spark of light. I was like, “I saw a light.” He says, “When you’re on the brainstem, that’s what happens.” I got up. I was so aware. Things got clearer. One thing that I noticed too was I was having this conversation with one of the docs. I’ll never forget Dr. Austin Davis, an awesome doctor in San Francisco. In our conversation, I felt so tuned in. All the stuff that was going on, I felt so dialed in. I was clear and connected to where I was at.
I felt present in the moment and I was like, “This is something different.” That was my first introduction. I wasn’t sold on it. I don’t know why. Through going to DE, I kept going back. I want to get knee-chested. I had x-rays and got everything done. It wasn’t until I got tapped into doing the work in a school where I was taught how to do it and doing it in the last part of the clinic. I didn’t do upper cervical until my last two-quarters of school. The results from who was getting upper cervical and who is getting a full spine, it didn’t even compare. I was like, “When I commit to something, I commit to something. I don’t look back.” I don’t say, “I could do this and whatever.” It’s like, “I got to commit this, forget everything else, and move forward.” Being where I’m at, being blessed to be with Dr. Drury and learning Knee Chest, it’s good when you commit.
Have you had any patients that had similar injuries to yourself? At the upper cervical world, you see a lot of interesting things, some serious stuff. What have you been seeing in your office over there?
I’m a pretty Christian faith person, so I know. I call it God who’s directing everyone our way. There was another sixteen-year-old boy who came in and he was struggling with TN, trigeminal neuralgia. His only reason they knew to come to the office was they’re from Hawaii. His grandmother had TN in her late eighties and is seeing a NUCCA doctor. Another uncle had TN and was seeing upper cervical care. It was getting results, so they came in. Long story short, they found our way to our office. I remember being the sixteen-year-old boy having the doctor introduce himself. My dad was with me. We did our exam. We came back the next day and he said, “We can help you.” I get a little emotional about it.
Those are the best words of all time after you’ve been doing dead ends for years.
His mom was on the first visit. Dad and mom came back the second visit. I came out from the consult room, “I can help you.” I went through everything. I adjusted him and he started laughing uncontrollably.
Those who don’t know trigeminal neuralgia is, briefly explain how painful and debilitating that can be.
It’s nicknamed the suicide disease. Medically, they diagnosed this as the second worst pain in the world.
EM 86 | Head On Straight Head On Straight: To see someone desperate and to tell them we can help with certainty, it’s very overwhelming from an emotional experience.
It’s unexplainable pain. It’s mostly in the face. It could be anywhere. It could be all over the body. You never know when it’s going to come when it’s going to hit and you have no control over it.
To clarify, TN, trigeminal neuralgia is only in the face. It comes from those trigeminal branches. Fibromyalgia is everywhere. The TN, it’s literally nine or ten out of ten pain, they say it’s like stabbing an icepick to your face. Another patient that we’ve seen, he said, “It literally felt like a screwdriver was on fire being stuck in my face.” Some people say they can’t even go outside because the wind hurts it or aggravates it. You talk about being grateful for letting the wind hit your face and not having it hurts you. With those people, you talk about lost hope. There are so many chat rooms in all these cities all over the world. Most of the people that are looking, they’ll do whatever, but a lot of them have given up on themselves. That’s where it’s tough, where it’s hard for us.
What’s beautiful about the upper cervical work is we say, “Holding is healing.” It’s a completely different 180 concept than regular chiropractic and the medical field in general. It doesn’t always happen but one neck adjustment can last weeks to months to years. That bone staying in place gives you that proper nerve flow and blood function. Your body begins to heal. A lot of people when they come to our office, we tell them on the first visit that our goal is to give you one neck adjustment. When they come back, they’re holding. We say they’re healing and they’re almost like, “This is amazing. I don’t need a neck adjustment.” It’s almost the light switch goes off where once it’s in place they could become their own doctor, which is great.
That’s one thing too that I was searching. You’re always a student in this work, whether you’re a student as a chiropractic student or a student in the field, you’re like, “Why?” This infinite intelligence that we have is so amazing, but you’re telling me I have to be adjusted or I have to be adjusted twice or three or five times a day or a week.
That is a myth about chiropractic.
How do we know? What parameters do you have to not adjust?
That’s one of the most important things.
How do you know if you got it or you didn’t?
That’s one of the best things about upper cervical chiropractic. It tells you when to adjust, where to adjust and when not to adjust, which is as important. If you give a person a wrong adjustment when they don’t need it, you can flare everything back up. That’s why it’s very important to measure nerve interference.
Back to the story, this kid, Danny. I’m trying to take him under my wing and turn him into an upper cervical doc. That’s kind of a secret passion I have. He was laughing uncontrollably. The mom, a little scared, says, “Is he supposed to be laughing this much?” I was like, “Yes, he knows his body’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing.” I’ll be honest, I went into the back room of the office and I started bawling my eyes out. It was a surreal moment to see someone like that in desperation exactly like I was. To have someone else tell them we can help you and to know with certainty and to have that, basically, you’re in a practice. It was definitely very overwhelming from emotional experience.
*That’s the best gift you could give somebody. * We have a great relationship. I’m always texting him. I’m trying to get into his school to speak. As I said, I got a little bit of selflessness, but I’m like, “I need to turn you into an upper cervical doctor. We need people with stories like you to be out there on the front line.” It’s been great.
Tim, are there any other cases you guys have seen in the office that’s been getting good results?
I go through so many. We’ve got storyboards. We’ve got testimonials. The TN ones are good because literally, they’re medical failures. Their doctors were like, “No, this is where it’s at.” Another girl with TN had brain surgery and was told that she’ll have this for the rest of her life. There’s this cool story. This guy came in. I think this is good to help with people who are thinking about upper cervical versus full spine. I had a guy come in literally bent over walking in. We’ve all seen the testimonial videos of the guy doing all the different adjustments. Long story short, I couldn’t even do a back exam on him. He was bent over terribly. I didn’t notice anything that happened, but when he was young, he had a diving accident where he dove headfirst into what he thought was six feet of water, but it was three feet. He hit his head.
EM 86 | Head On Straight Head On Straight: Trust the people that have come before you because they’ve sacrificed and guarantee way more than you ever could imagine to allow you to practice this principle.
I go through the x-rays, there was sphere degeneratIon. He went to pick up his toothbrush and his back went out. Literally, the second visit, he came in and I adjust him. I never touched back. I adjusted his neck. The second visit, he’s standing up straight and he goes, ‘”What’s going on?” He’s the happiest dude ever. I haven’t touched this back one time in the office. Every time he comes in and he shows his family, “This is what I do.” We talk about how excited people get and literally back pain issues is where he felt it. I only touched his neck and he walking out of there straight.
Tim, there’s about seven to nine different upper cervical techniques at this point, or somewhere in that ballpark. I’ve had some Atlas Orthogonal guys where they use the instrument. I had Blair chiropractors that use their hands, NUCCA. I haven’t had anybody that does knee chest. What is different about knee chest upper cervical chiropractic? What kind of table do you guys use? I’ve never personally gotten in a knee chest upper cervical adjustment, but the premise and the end goal with all of the upper cervical techniques is to get that person clear around the brainstem and functioning to their optimum potential. Whatever way you do it is golden with me. How does the knee chest adjustment work?
When upper cervical was introduced, even all the research that most upper cervical doctors quote from, it all came from B.J. in the knee chest position. There’s been a little bit of miscommunication or misinterpretation that B.J. went to the side posture, which if you keep going down the green books, that’s not true. He was getting adjusted in the knee-chest position by Lyle Sherman until the day he died, which is fact. The way that everything is orchestrated in that position, it’s not for the patient, it’s for the doctor to make sure he can get that three dimensional, that misalignment. It’s very practical. There’s not much guesswork. The best skill you have to have is being able to read x-rays, which is constantly changing and evolving with abnormalities. We’ve got a cone beam CT changing different things that we’re finding on x-ray.
Have you implemented the cone beam yet in the office?
Yes, we do cone beam reimaging. It’s legit. It makes us more confused, which means that we’re learning.
It shows you everything.
It changes listings. We noticed a lot more C-tube listings on them as well. Knee chest is good. I think it’s very practical. You come in. The standard is the Titronics, the Tytron instrumentation. We make an adjustment. We let them rest. They come back. We rescan them. In our office, I think it’s been misinterpreted too. It’s not about changing the graph, it’s about straight lines. As my mentor, Dr. Drury, learned from Michael Kale. His famous saying is, “The bottom line is a straight line.” If you get that line straight, you can look with your patients with a 100% certainty and say, “You are going to get well. You may not feel well, but you are going to be healing well.” That’s good to know, especially early on into practice because you hear pops and clicks or whatever. I needed more than that. How do know where the subluxation is?
Tytron scanning is everything. It’s huge.
It’s such an important part to the profession no matter what technique you do. What’s great about knee chest too is it shows that three-dimensional subluxation, take AP, open mouth, lateral and then a base posterior. You can see that three-dimensional misalignment, which is good to interpret. What do I need to change? How do I need it to work? Where do I need to stand? There’s a lot of questions being answered. You see the results. Knee chest is the only upper cervical technique that I know of that you can do in a mission field.
Do in the mission field, like doing a mission trip.
It’s already set up and they have knee chest mission trips already? I don’t think Blair does that.
I don’t know of anyone. I don’t know if NUCCA does. I know NUCCA’s super anal in their x rays, which is good, so are we. You can get a few things through posture and stuff. It’s good too. You’re going to feel movement. If you’re a full spine guy and you’re like, “I don’t feel any movement with upper cervical,” you definitely feel movement when you get a knee chest adjustment for the patient and for the doctor, which is cool. That’s what we set our standard off of. It’s the scan. It’s good. You’re moving bones, which is good. It was introduced to me. I feel comfortable as a doctor making an adjustment in that position. This is what I’ve been told by my mentor. I think it is the hardest technique to be good at because you have to warm up. You can’t practice click and triggers, whatever the case may be. There’s no drop piece. It’s all doctor and patient. It’s an uncomfortable position for the patient. You got to make sure you’re smooth, you’re in, you’re out and you move the interference.
Dr. Tim, is there anything else you’d like to share on this episode?
May I ask you a question? Who are we trying to reach?
We are trying to reach the general population, patients, other chiropractors, and anybody that’s never heard of upper cervical chiropractic. We are trying to spread our message to the world here.
I can see the passion that you have and I see a lot of your stuff too. Thank you for your service. Being humble and asking other people for advice. If there’s any way we can support you.
What is one piece of advice you’ve taken with you over the years that have resonated with you that you would like to give the audience?
I think it’s tough. You got to trust the process. Be open to constructive criticism. As students, I’m guilty of it. We think we know everything. “This is a culture I’m going to create in the office.” Those thoughts still arise. Trust the people that have come before you because they’ve sacrificed and guarantee you way more than you ever could imagine to allow you to practice this principle. I always want the general population as well as other chiropractors and new chiropractors coming out in the field to be grateful for who has come before you so you don’t have to sacrifice.
I love that you said that. I know you can attest to this. Especially if you’re trying to get solid at the upper cervical work, you need at least one solid mentor that has been doing the work for a long time. Just because you see everything, you see all walks of life, people that can’t walk, in wheelchairs, with crazy neurological issues, if you don’t have that person that’s been there and done that and has analyzed all the x-rays, it can get very difficult. Unfortunately, I do see some people that stopped doing it. It does get difficult, but if you do have that mentor, you’re more than welcome to reach out to myself or Dr. Tim. If you’re learning the work and you want to get solid at it, please feel free to reach out to us and share knowledge and keep it going. Tim, thank you so much for coming on. It’s a pleasure.
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