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The Power of Upper Cervical with Dr. Jeff Scholten

6 years ago

Dr. Jeff Scholten is an upper cervical doctor out of Calgary, Canada. He’s an expert in the upper neck, which is called the craniocervical junction. It is the most vital part of our central nervous system because every single nerve in our body passes through this junction. If there is any interference in this area, your body is not functioning to its optimal potential. That is exactly why upper cervical chiropractic saved my life and it is why so many others, like Dr. Jeff Scholten and myself, are on a mission to share this procedure with the world and get everyone functioning to their optimal potential.


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The Power of Upper Cervical with Dr. Jeff Scholten

Please welcome, Dr. Jeff Scholten. Jeff, where are you from?

Canada. Just north of you guys a little bit. I was born in Ontario and moved out through Saskatchewan to Calgary. I’ve been in Calgary since university. That’s where my family is now.

I heard it’s beautiful out there, especially this time of year.

It’s gorgeous. We’re having a lot of wildfires right now, but it’s a beautiful place to come and visit. Calgary is on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, right by Banff and Lake Louise.

I was going to say, is that where Banff is? Because I’ve seen pictures of that and that just looks unreal.

It’s pretty awesome. It’s a nice playground to have in our backyard that’s for sure. Air tastes good.

What were you into as a kid growing up? Play any sports?

Yeah, I played a lot of soccer. As a Canadian, I think I played a lot of hockey, but I wasn’t any good at hockey. I grew late. Soccer, I played indoor, outdoor. I played a ton of that and a ton of basketball. Those were my sports. Really, they consumed majority of my time growing up for sure.

You ever ran across Steve Nash ever when you were playing basketball over there?

Probably good that I didn’t, but no.

Jeff, how did you get into the healing profession?

When I finished high school, I didn’t go straight into university. I didn’t know what I exactly wanted to do. I took a year off. I went over Amsterdam where my dad is from. I have a lot of family. I lived there for a year. I worked on the market selling fruits and vegetables and just experiencing life off the treadmill I guess, a little bit. That was an awesome experience. As I was there, I realized, “Ready to continue on with higher education.” I figured I’d go into business so I started into commerce. By the end of the first year, just really found that it wasn’t very inspiring for me. School hadn’t been inspiring up until that point and that was no different.

Are you still in Amsterdam at this point?

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If you know this information, you’re going to be able to help them. If you don’t know this information, then you won’t.

No, I’m in Calgary. I came back to Calgary from Amsterdam and started university. At the end of the first year, then I realized, “Maybe I’ll do something different.” I moved over to Kinesiology and started taking some courses. I just dropped all my courses on first day of class and started auditing them and then registered in the third. That was an interesting thing for me because one of the classes that I registered in, a guy name Dale Butterwick was a prof of Athletic Therapy class. One of the things he said on the first day was, “A lot of the classes you take, nobody’s ever going to ask you anything about, they don’t need you to know anything about it. But this athletic therapy thing, when people hear you take it, they’re going to start asking you questions about problems that they have. If you know this information, you’re going to be able to help them. If you don’t know this information, then you won’t. It’s pretty simple.” I was like, “That’s a cool idea.” Then I decided, “Why don’t I just study this information?”

At the same time, I was taking some Biomechanics classes, Anatomy classes. Those are really interesting to be as well. I found that, for the first time in my life really, studying wasn’t that painful. I enjoyed what I was learning. I did all the athletic therapy classes that I could. I really enjoyed that, working as a student athletic therapist through my undergrad. Right around second year I guess, my sister who was at the time, sixteen and had had a stroke when she was five and only one side of her muscles work normally and the other side had an upper motor neuron lesion basically and in constant spasm. It had created an imbalance, an asymmetry in her musculature enough that it had created a pretty enormous scoliosis for her. My parents were researchers so they just continued to research things. Eventually, they found NUCCA, a guy by the name of Alberti, who was the NUCCA president at the time.

Jeff, what is NUCCA?

NUCCA is a set of procedures developed by an organization known as the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association. In chiropractic basically, around the turn of the century, chiropractic started taking x-rays on 1921 I think it was and then gradually started focusing on the upper cervical spine. As that developed over the next few decades, different sub procedures started to develop as people took it in different directions. One of the directions was taken by a guy named John Grostic who eventually was joined by a guy named Ralph Gregory. They just looked at the way to correct the spine, taking pre x-rays, determining the position of the vertebra and trying to reduce the imbalances back to a more neutral position. Then after John Grostic died, there was a number of organizations that were formed out of people that had been studying with him. One of them was NUCCA formed in Michigan by Ralph Gregory. NUCCA has been around now as an organization for 50 years.

The Grostic work is coming up on 70 years. It just continues to develop. Even at the very last conference, there was a new part to the analysis. I won’t bore you with details, but that had been studied and then incorporated into the work. What’s really cool about NUCCA is its ongoing development. It’s not a fast developing procedure because there are lots of people that are doing it and it’s done a lot of historical development, but it continues to take information that its practitioners study that information. If it makes the reduction better or the analysis more precise, then it’s incorporated into procedures. That’s NUCCA.

Your sister came across this one, she was about sixteen years old?

That’s right. Going back to that, my sister was sixteen and my parents came across it. They took her out there hoping to reduce the effects of this massive muscular imbalance in her body. When she’s out of alignment, she has a leg that’s about an inch and a half short. Then when she’s in alignment, it’s even. That was a pretty profound effect that he had on her. He was able to even her leg length and balance her hips and do it all through the upper neck. As somebody at that time studying anatomy and physiology and biomechanics and having been interested in that area, that was very interesting to me.

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It just seemed really, really inspiring to me to be able to make that kind of a difference in somebody’s life.

He then transferred her back to Calgary where there were two NUCCA practitioners, one by the name of Gordon Hasick and one by the name of Gary Thompson. In the end, I ended up going in and chatting with Gary Thompson. He was nice enough to make some time for me. I went and chatted with him. As I spoke with him and observed what he was doing, it just seemed really, really inspiring to me to be able to make that kind of a difference in somebody’s life.

Just to drastically change someone’s life for the better, you see miracles happen every day with Upper Cervical. It’s unbelievable.

It’s one of those funny things that almost becomes commonplace. When I started practice, there was a psychiatrist down the hall from me who had a lot of interest actually in alternative medicine, a lot of acupuncture and that kind of stuff. He would take me out to lunch; he took me under his wing I guess a little bit. He would buy me lunch periodically and give me advice. A great guy, his name was Bud Ricky. He said, “Jeff, the challenge in practice is to concentrate on the 95 and not the five.” I think it’s interesting in our practice that I don’t know that we have the five even, but they’re certainly maybe the one or the half percent on a day-to-day basis who don’t have the results that they want or that we want. Really, it baffles me every day, the changes that people are able to see in their lives and their ability to exist in a healthy way.

It changes the entire family’s life too because now that this person is struggling, the whole family feels it. That person’s life changes for the better and the whole family’s better for it. That’s also awesome to see in practice as well.

It absolutely is. When I started in practice Kevin, I was seeing all these changes. I really didn’t understand when somebody would come in and say, “Can you help me with this issue or this issue?” I didn’t have any ability to have a sense of whether we would be able to help them. The likelihood was so high that of course, most people were finding some kind of positive effect. They just didn’t know what that was. After I was in practice for two and a half years, I actually did a retrospective analysis of all of my patients and all of their outcomes after seven weeks under our care. It’s just incredible. The average reduction in postural imbalance was 83% within two or three days, and that was only because I only checked them, again, two or three days later.

Looking at the symptoms and what their experience was symptomatically, we have a really interesting relationship with symptoms in Upper Cervical because we were looking for something that could be the underlying cause of so many different things. With the hierarchy of neurology that’s in the body, you have an injury to your low back that’s catastrophic and that really makes a dent in your life. In your neck, if you have the same injury, it’s a huge deal. It includes all the issues that would be in your lower back injury, but even more. That upper neck that created cervical junction, the area between the skull, that first, second vertebra, if you injure that catastrophically, you’re pretty much instantly dead. If you’ve injured it, but it’s not catastrophic in nature, you’re still alive.

That idea that there’s a continuum between things being absolutely how they’re supposed to be and things being so bad that you could be dead, leaves you what the breath of possibility between those two points of what it could affect in a human being in terms of this progressive deterioration. Sometimes people will have an injury as you know and immediately have a symptomatic experience associated with it. They can tell, “Yeah, that’s exactly what happened.” I had a patient come in yesterday who’s on a six-month recall schedule because she gets only adjusted every couple of years. She’s been under care for probably about a decade. She came in and she said, “I bumped my head getting into my car. I didn’t think much of it. It was just a little bump. Then a couple of weeks later, my low back started hurting, my sacroiliac joint, the SI joint, the pelvic joint at the lower back, the bottom part of the lower back.” She’s like, “I didn’t clue it.” I said, “What’s going on here?” She hadn’t been in for a number of months and she hadn’t been adjusted for a really long time. Finally about a month and a half after having experienced this pain and it kind of being there present consistently, all of a sudden a light bulb went off in her head and she said, “Wait a second. This is the problem I get when I have my neck out of alignment.” That speaks to the difficulty I think we have with patients to a certain extent because the neck obviously, spinally, has this far removed from a sacroiliac joint as possible. When that goes off, then all of a sudden the body starts being inhibited or negatively affected in its ability to communicate. Then for us, we’ll see a whole range of things. We’ll see the blood flow differentials happen, but we’ll also see a lot of postural asymmetry. As she started walking with that postural asymmetry, that eventually recreated her original symptomatic experience.

It’s the most unstable area in the body with the most neurological significance, correct?

That’s it.

Every single nerve in your body passes through that foramen up there and it literally can affect anything. It’s just unbelievable.

I saw this stuff happen with my sister. I thought, “That’s really cool. That would be something I could get into doing for people.” I already knew I wanted to move on with some form of helping people. I didn’t know what it was going to be. These things come across you. It’s really fortuitous. It’s fluky in a way that you sometimes come across this stuff. In our practices, we see people who, “If I could have only known about this 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.”

Everybody says that.

I was really lucky that way. Then I got under care and I could feel real substantial shifts in my body. I was in a very different place and I wasn’t a highly symptomatic person, but I periodically have issues. Mostly of what it was, was I could feel my body shifting structurally. I thought that was pretty cool. My wife, who at that time we were dating, she would have a headache or stomach ache here and there. I was planning on doing this chiropractic thing and she’d never been to a chiropractor so she decided she’d go in. She gets adjusted, her nose started running. It ran for three days. Few weeks later, she realized, “Wait a second, I don’t have to use my bronchodilator anymore, nose spray.”

She had had asthma pretty significantly for a couple of years ever since she had a bronchitis that was mistreated with antibiotics from different practitioners for about a year without anybody asking her if she was on them before. Until one guy did, a young doc did and took her off them. She basically had this ongoing bronchitis for a year that eventually healed after she came off the antibiotics. He took her off of them and then she was left with this asthma. For a couple of years, she had this condition where she was dealing with asthma.

Anyway, what she said is that even before she had this bronchitis and ended up with the asthma, once she could actually breathe after she had her first NUCCA correction, she thought for her entire life she probably had limited ability to intake air. She just thought that was her normal, so she didn’t know. When she would lose her alignment, she would notice, she wouldn’t go back to an asthmatic level of loss of air, but she would notice that she just have a bit of restricted breathing. She couldn’t breathe quite as clearly and well. That’s how she knew that she was out of alignment.

The next person is my brother-in-law who’s got asthma. He’s like, “I’ve tried chiropractic for asthma. It didn’t work.” I’m like, “We don’t really treat asthma. We just fix the neck. If the neck is causing the asthma, then the asthma goes away. If some other issue is causing the asthma, and there could be lots of reasons you might have asthma, then the asthma doesn’t go away.” It’s not that the neck wasn’t an important thing to get fixed anyway.

He comes in, he gets treated and his asthma has no change. What he finds is that his migraines that he suffered from for his entire life go away. He came for the asthma, his migraines are gone. He has an issue and he’s still under care now. He comes in periodically. He knows he’s out of alignment because he starts to get a cold sore on his lip. He used to have cold sores all the time. As soon as he starts to get a cold sore, he knows he’s off. It doesn’t get full blown, he can just feel, I don’t get cold sores, so I don’t know, but like some tingling. Then he comes in, gets adjusted and cold sores stops coming on. He’s noticed that over now decades if that’s related.

When you start watching these variety of symptoms, what it basically is, is this inability for the body to fully express itself and fully self-maintain optimally. When we’re dealing with this particular set of situations, people come in with all sorts of things and they’re looking for help with those things usually. Some people are just coming in to optimize their postural asymmetry. I had a guy in yesterday whose parents were patients. He’s been a patient. I’ve been in practice now sixteen years and a little bit. He started with me fifteen years ago as a teenager. Now he’s married, he just recently got married. He was in and he got checked. He’s on a three-month schedule, so he got checked three months ago. He’s holding. Now, he was holding yesterday.

Jeff, for those listening, what do you mean by holding? Because it’s a different concept within chiropractic that most people don’t know about.

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We monitor a bunch of objective findings to try to understand if a person is in need of an adjustment.

Basically the idea for us is that we want to adjust you if you have misalignment factors that are subluxation factors we call misalignment of the vertebra when it affects you neurologically and affects your brain to body communication. When that’s happening, that’s when we adjust. We monitor a bunch of objective findings to try to understand if a person is in need of an adjustment or if they’re not in need of an adjust and their body is functioning well. The job, from our perspective, is to adjust people as little as possible to get them the best results. When somebody holds their alignment really well, we’ll gradually space out their appointments depending on basically, their frequency.

This guy, he was coming in for a check-up and everything was good. He felt good and all of his objective findings, his tomography, posture, how his back was moving with the musculature felt like what his joints felt like. Everything was good. He didn’t need an adjustment. That’s what we mean by holding. He’s like, “I got to get my wife in here.” I said, “What’s going on with your wife?” “Nothing, she’s never been checked and adjusted. I think she should just come in and make sure that she’s okay so that in 20 or 30 years, her spine is healthier than it would be if she doesn’t.” You get people like that, they really get hit and then you get people who obviously are coming in to try to help manage a symptom that they have. They’ll maybe have migraines and come in when they start to have migraines. People who just know when they’re off because they can feel how their body relates in gravity or maybe their vision goes off or maybe their personality.

I had a guy come in just last week. Again, he’s been under care for more than a couple of decades actually. He transferred to me from another Upper Cervical chiropractor, but he’s been under my care since I started practice. He hadn’t been in for two years. He was doing great and then all of a sudden, he started noticing that he was having greater trouble controlling his annoyance and irritation emotionally. Then he remembered that that was something that had been affected historically with his upper neck having a problem. He came in, he was assessed. He was off. He wasn’t off by a lot, but he was off a little bit. I adjusted him. That guy used to be on a six-month schedule before or he just miss four appointments really when it comes down to two years.

I checked him a few days later, personality is back. He’s like, “It’s so great to not have that layer of darkness that I felt.” He was holding so he didn’t need to be adjusted. Again, all the objective findings were there and looking good. It’s so beautiful when you’re focusing in the upper cervical spine because you, by default, know you’re not going to help anybody with everything. But you can help anybody with potentially, anything. You don’t know what it is that’s going to be affected because the body being a self-maintaining organism, we end up with this ability if we remove this interference where the body to just function better.

That’s a big thing with me too. When I’m out of alignment, I get depressed for no reason and very anxious, I can’t control my anxiety. The moment I get put back into alignment, gone. It reminds me why I do it. It’s pretty unbelievable.

A few years ago, when the first diplomate in chiropractic craniocervical junction procedures was starting and I had the chance to study with people who had mastery in different procedures. It was really amazing because, you and I for instance, we did different procedures for the upper neck as base procedures, but we recognized that there is only one true biomechanical situation that’s happening in a person at a particular point in time. Our job is to try to understand that to the best of our ability. If you and I look at an upper cervical spine and we see different things that are a problem, then that means our procedures haven’t developed far enough. None of our procedures have yet developed far enough. A lot of what I’m doing now within the practice of Upper Cervical Chiropractic is really integrating those procedures as much as possible, but with using regular x-ray, but also with using CT and MR, specifically Cone Beam CT and being able to look at these things in these different ways.

When I started practice, and again, it’s not that long ago when I started, sixteen years ago, one of the things that I did was I look back and I tried to say, “What different conditions?” I did a very thorough case history and I would just watch different physiologic things that people would note or different symptoms that they would have. One of the ones that I used to talk about a decade ago was nosebleeds. I noticed a consistent improvement people would report in nosebleeds. I was like, “Look at this guy. Why do you think this is?” Nobody really had any idea.

Then in 2007, Marshall Dickholtz, Sr., who’s since passed on, really published a landmark pilot study on the effects of the upper neck on blood pressure. It speaks to our perspective on this as well because it made a huge change in these people’s blood pressure and the control group no real change and it was sustained with very little intervention once that interference was removed. From a regular medical perspective, NUCCA or Upper Cervical could become a treatment for hypertension, which would be then the condition. In an Upper Cervical perspective, what happens is when the upper neck is misaligned, it wreaks so much havoc neuro physiologically in the body that the deal with that, the blood pressure is raised. Then removing that interference normalizes.

It’s not that the normal is the hypertension and it has to be reduced. It’s said it’s an abnormal adaptation to something that’s going. In that study, I’m not looking at it and it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it so I don’t want to misquote it, but there were 25 subjects that had the intervention, 25 subjects that didn’t. The average reduction in the systolic or the big number of blood pressure, the pressure that happens when your heart is fully contracted, pushing blood into your arteries, was a seventeen point drop. On the diastolic, the amount of pressure that’s in those same vessels when your heart is fully relaxed or the bottom number of the blood pressure reading, it was a nine point drop. That was the mean of all 25 people.

What the really interesting thing from a chiropractic perspective about that is I think, when you look at the data, only 15 of the 25 actually had any change in their blood pressure. The mean across the 25 was 17, but that’s a 15 having a change and 10 having no change. When you look at NUCCA as a treatment for hypertension, again, it speaks to the validity, I think, of our construct where we say, “We’re not treating hypertension. We’re just normalizing something.” When you look at the percentages of that, there was a majority of people who had a change of that group, but it certainly wasn’t all of them, it wasn’t even remotely close to all of them. I think when you look, you’ll say, “Look at that, only 60% of the people had a change and yet the average change was 17 points.” That means that 60% had a much bigger change on average if you just looked at them.

As we start to look at the MRs and we start to have imaging that shows us what’s going on, we start to then understand that, “What’s happening with this type of major neurological events in people?” We start to say, we start to develop conjecture, some thoughts around what might be happening. The first thing that was thought within our organization because there had been some history case reports about what might happen with blood pressure, we thought arteries were beating on nerves and maybe making a problem. What it ended up being when we started looking at some case studies was it appeared to be veins that were backing up that were the problem. It wasn’t the arteries that were beating on the nerves. It was the backing up of the veins.

You have to understand, looking at MRIs is like listening to the radio. You’re on the east coast and you probably got a lot of radio stations around you. If you are listening to a rock station, the likelihood of you hearing Blake Shelton is almost none existent. You could listen every day forever and you’re never going to hear Blake Shelton. If you’re on a country station, the likelihood of you hearing AC/DC is absolutely not going to happen. People will come in as patients and say, “I had an MRI and it showed nothing.” I’m like, “Were you listening to a country station looking for a rock? What MRI did you have?” For these MRIs, you need what’s called the face contrast MRI. There are not many people in the world who actually understand enough to interpret these MRIs, let alone take them.

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Radiology is about repetition. That’s how we don’t miss things.

In fact, in Calgary, I’ve had a sequence called the Scholten Sequence. They named it because I was the first one to ask for it, not that I came up with it. I just got it from Scott Rosa and Julie Hunt and David Harshfield and asked them to do it and so they did it. We integrated that and we’ve been doing that for two years in the upper neck. They keep missing things on it. I send it off to another radiologist for a read, for a second opinion and then we get a different opinion for the patient and they get the dignity of the proper diagnosis because we have the images. This is a radiological group that has 300 radiologists. I’m talking to the head guy on neuromuscular imaging, he’s like, “Jeff, I wanted to upgrade the imaging. The literature had suggested that we needed to make it even better than what we had created two years ago.” I’m talking. I’m trying to help how to make it better. He said, “We’re really in a medical-legal quander here because if I take these images, we don’t have an expert that’s expert enough to read it, to interpret it, to give you an appropriate opinion about it and you don’t have enough patients for me to dedicate a radiologist to learning about it. If they learn about it and you send me ten patients a year, they have to relearn it every year because radiology is about repetition. That’s how we don’t miss things.”

We’re working on a study so that they can take the images. We have to get a study pass through an ethics review board. Now, they’ll be able to take the images and I’ll be able to send them off to a different radiologist in Florida who has the expertise to read it. As long as they’re working under what is called an institutional review board in Canada. It’s interesting because patients will come in, they’re from Calgary, they’ve had MRI imaging in Calgary and they’re telling me that there’s nothing there. What I know is that they haven’t had the imaging. They’re listening to the wrong radio station to find even what they think might be the problem.

Coming all the way around to this nosebleed concept that I had said earlier, when you think about all the blood backing up in the veins and if you understand the way the heart works pushing blood into big vessels to small vessels on the artery side and then through capillaries into the vein side or the venous return side, if that vein side is expanded and tortured and full of blood, then probably a lot of people are having back up in their skull and brain and therefore face and nose of blood vessels. Then if a blood vessel is more full, you can imagine that it’s more likely to blow and then the pressure changes the situation maybe create a nosebleed for that person.

The first time that I had that recognition was probably around 2010. In 2004, was when I did the retrospective analysis and I knew about the nosebleeds. You know about the nosebleeds in ‘04, you start to see some bit of the imaging in 2010 and then we start to understand how these conditions relate to each other. That’s really the essence of, I think, the early stages of scientific inquiries, this observation. Then we have to move up this if people really cared about nosebleeds. That was negatively affecting their lives. It might take a higher priority than they currently does. What we’re dealing with are people who have major issues with what we would term, craniocervical syndrome, which is what you and I treat. They’ll have pounding headaches at the base of their skull, have dizziness, will have vision disturbances, they’ll have hearing disturbances, they’ll have extremity numbness, they’ll hit walls when they walk. It’s all different levels.

Here’s the thing, the continuum is normal to dead. Normal is no injury to the upper neck, dead is catastrophic injury. If you’re on that continuum, our job is people who deal with this area, we never going to make it normal again because once it’s been injured, just like if you’ve cut yourself anywhere at any age, you can still see the scar. It’s not going to be normalized, but the question is, can we move it into a zone or up that continuum far enough so that’s not negatively affecting that human beings life in a significant way? Just like you, when you say, “I feel anxious and depressed and dark when I’m subluxated.” Now you’re adjusted, “I don’t feel that way.” You probably have to get adjusted periodically. The job is how infrequently can you have that happen.

That’s about us as chiropractors doing our job as well as possible, but also as recognizing that there are other professions that are doing things that influence what we’re doing and us taking the time to understand them and stewarding proper interfaces with those professions and stewarding proper referrals to them. I always say to my patients, “Treatments are like socks and shoes. Often, there’s a particular order that works best.” Just because you’ve tried something in the wrong order, don’t say socks don’t work because you’ve put on the shoes and then the socks and then you burnt through them. You just didn’t know what order to do it in and our job is to help you know that.

That especially goes with Upper Cervical because we are usually the last people that this person had seen. They tried physical therapy, they tried other chiropractic, they tried standard western medicine and nothing has worked. Then they get into our care and then they notice that the physical therapy starts working again, the acupuncture starts working again, the massage starts working again. That’s a very interesting point you just brought up.

100%. The opposite happens too, Kev. Most of the time, you’re 100% in the terms of what’s going on, but sometimes, I have a situation where let’s say somebody has got an issue that they’ve been dealing with and I can get them adjusted and it could help them, but they don’t hold; maybe a hold for a week or something like that. That can be very frustrating for somebody when he can get a glimpse of what it’s like to not have these issues and to have their health back, but not have their health back enough that they have an adaptive capacity to deal with significant stress. They keep losing it. It’s like blowing a fuse. You’ve got to have enough bandwidth I guess for you and I to be talking right now and you have to have enough capacity to deal with the stressors that happen.

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There are a percentage of people who we do have the major cause of what’s going on with them.

There’s a percentage and that percentage is what drives me. I was talking to a group of dentists in New Orleans a couple of years ago. They cornered me in the bar the night before I talked. We’re chatting and they’re talking about their miracle cases. They have many miracle cases. When I got to stage for a couple of hours the next day, it’s like, we could talk about our miracle cases, but the truth is what drives the majority of us that are driven to make a difference and I feel like you’re driven to make a difference. In my retrospective analysis, 80% of people know it’s the 70% to 100% improvement on one of their chief complaints. Those are good stats, but that means 20% didn’t. We had 6% that noticed no difference at any symptom that they were experiencing. We’re not necessarily feeling that that’s a failure because again, we’re just dealing with the upper neck and might not be the cause of the symptom. The thing is that there are a percentage of people who we do have the major cause of what’s going on with them, but we can’t stabilize them. That drives me out into the integrative care world, to understand what people are doing.

As a young new practitioner, my advice always is get out there, meet the other practitioners, understand why what they’re doing works. When we’re talking to each other, let’s not start from the perspective that what you’re saying is wrong, but let me look from the perspective as, “Let’s say what you’re saying is right, why is it right? What’s right about it? How does that make sense to me? What parts of that fit for me? What questions do I have to be able to understand it better?”

Jeff, I’m glad you brought that up because I remember when you were speaking at the conference, you told that you would be in a room full of doctors. All it takes is one guy in the room to be, “I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe what you do.” Some people will get offended and walk away. You guys won’t have a conversation. I like how you approached that situation on how to debate. Can you elaborate on that? I took a lot away from that. I found that fascinating.

I’m so happy to hear it because that’s not an original idea of mine. I was taught that actually in my very first semester at chiropractic college in a neurophysiology class. The prof was saying at the time, there’s physiologic truth and then there’s opinion. When you don’t have fact, you have opinion. When you have an opinion, you should always be open to that opinion not being correct, you not having the right opinion and maybe you changing your opinion. What we do in scientific inquiry, evidence does prove things, it informs an opinion. It needs to be flexible and it needs to change with new evidence. What he said is, “If anybody ever disagrees with you about something, what I recommend you do is find out everything about what they disagree with you about before you decide to start talking to them about things.” You might find at the end of all of that that you actually agree with them and you disagree with your original opinion, which then you don’t have to argue with them and you’ve learned something. Or if you still disagree with them, you’ve learned everything that they disagree with about you and then you can inform your conversation back to them.

I like to do that and I’ve done that over the years a lot. As soon as they’re like, “I disagree with that,” my next question is always, “What do you disagree with? What about it do you disagree with? What’s your perspective on this? Tell me more, share more about it.” Then they do. What that ends up doing is multiple things. It informs you as I said, but when you tell me you disagree with me about something and I say, “That’s stupid,” and I come back and tell you back why you shouldn’t disagree with me. I’m not listening to you and so you’re not listening to me. We’re going to likely come to an impasse. When I say, “Tell me why you think that,” and you just tell me everything you think about it and you feel very heard by me, then you’re mostly, most people who want to learn stuff, because not everybody does, not everybody actually wants to learn. They just want to make a problem. Some people are like that.

I think the vast majority of people want to learn and want to agree with others and be conciliatory and amiable. Even the heaviest drivers, they just want to be heard and then you hear them and then you just shoot it right back at them. They hear you and they could change their opinion, but they’re ready to hear you once you’ve heard them. It’s like the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would like them to have.” It’s really the one step above that I think is the platinum rule, “Do unto others as they would like to have done unto to themselves.” Try to figure out what people would want. When you’re in a circumstance like that, you recognize that person is part of the small percentage of people that aren’t interested in learning, you’ve heard them and then you say, “I hear what you’re saying. This is what I hear. I have a bit of a different perspective, would you like to hear mine?” They don’t want to hear yours, then that’s okay. Those can be one time conversations.

You don’t have to be the person that makes that person more valuable member of society. They’ve got big problems that they’re dealing with all the time because their ego is such that they can’t hear from other people anything other than what they already believe. They’ve had some other challenges or maybe they just aren’t ready to hear it at that time, maybe they’ll hear it on another day. I think that for all of us, as we try to understand things, listeners of yours that don’t necessarily understand, even as you said what NUCCA is or how that works or what Blair is or what Upper Cervical is or how it might interface. They might have a tendency to be like, “That’s impossible. That’s too good to be true.” It’s our job to make sure that we put a dose of reality in there. It’s not like everybody is a miracle.

I’d say in my practice, the home runs are probably 10% to 15%. By home run, I mean persons coming in, they’re suffering really, really badly and they’ve been suffering really badly for a long time. We adjust them and it instantly changes. It’s probably about, again, based on my historical researches, 6% that have no symptomatic change. There’s very few that we can’t actually help in an objective way. Even those that don’t get a symptomatic change in our office will often want to continue care because they can see the difference that it makes in their life and they intellectually understand it. Not everybody is like that.

Any of the people who are listening to this that have a health problem, the key thing to understand about health is that when we’re looking for a single solution, we rarely find it. I think in the 10% to 15% that we hit the home run, what’s happened is they’ve put a number of pieces of the puzzles in place and I was just the icing on the cake, to mix metaphors. I put the last couple of pieces in and everything came around. Whereas in the people that we don’t make any symptomatic change, what I think is we’re putting some pieces of puzzle in place because we’re helping them and we could objectively see that we’re helping them, otherwise we wouldn’t continue if we didn’t see some objective result.

If their condition doesn’t respond favorably to what we’re dealing with, then it doesn’t necessarily mean that those pieces of the puzzle weren’t important. You might need to keep those pieces of the puzzle as you search, hopefully with the help of your clinician, for the other pieces that are necessary to put in. That’s how we practice here in beautiful Calgary, Alberta. I know that a lot of us practice that way upper cervically. There are some who still practice, they don’t really monitor symptoms at all and they’re trying to not have people talk about their symptoms. Really, I think that physiology and symptomatic expression and understanding what people are experiencing, is an important piece as important as the objective, maybe not as important but because you can’t guide your care with the symptomatic pieces, but you can inform your care.

You’ve got to be strong enough in your beliefs and your objective testings like, “You don’t need an adjustment today, but I hear you.” It’s almost good for them just to get a little bit off their chest, tell you how they’re doing and like you said, some people just want to be heard. There is a fine line to that. Some people will talk forever, but some people just want to be heard and that goes a long way with them too. Jeff, what are you doing now? People that are listening to this, and there’s not many Upper Cervical doctors in the world, you’re putting together a website, correct? That’s linking all the Upper Cervical Techniques where people can go and find the nearest Upper Cervical Technique near them?

That’s right. We’re doing actually quite a bit. Right now in Upper Cervical, I have a few different roles. I’m on a research board called the Upper Cervical Research Foundation. I’m president of NUCCA right now, the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association. I’m past president of the Upper Cervical Council of the International Chiropractic Association. I’m still on that board as a board member, but I served my couple terms as president. In addition to that, what I’m really passionate about is the idea that students coming out of school with heavy loans and such might be able to come out in land, in practice and be mentored in the development of their clinical skills. Then find themselves a way to be in practice and own their own practice over the course of six to ten-year period.

What I’m working on is a multipronged approach to that. That’s the big picture. The little picture is that there’s a need for Upper Cervical chiropractors to find each other and that’s Any Upper Cervical chiropractor can get a free listing on there. Therefore, we can find each other with a little greater ease. We just want to have everybody listed who defines themselves as an Upper Cervical chiropractor and then they can verify themselves and they can have higher grade listings if they want. The other piece to that is that Upper Cervical chiropractors need good material for communicating and so we have Upper Cervical Stuff, which is branded recently generically as Upper Cervical Care, but it is really beautiful stuff made by Billy Doherty. That’s Upper Cervical Stuff.

Then we’ve got Healthy Chiropractice. Healthy Chiropractice is business resources for Upper Cervical chiropractors. As you move up, the different membership rankings of healthy chiropractors, you have different resources that are available to you. Some things, when you do it by yourself, it’s much more expensive than if you do it as a group. Certain things relative to business, organizations for technique; I believe the Blair organization is very strong right now. NUCCA is very strong, but they’re not really about business, they need to be about procedures and technique and research. We need organizations that focus on helping chiropractors with good ethical business systems that are focused on Upper Cervical Chiropractors so that people don’t have to go out and adapt business models from mainstream chiropractic to try to make them work in Upper Cervical. As somebody who consults with chiropractors regularly, I see some just terrible suggestions and terrible advice that they get. Healthy Chiropractice is there.

A long time, Upper Cervical Patient Advocate, somebody who funded the Power of Upper Cervical, which is a movie that you might have seen, a guy named Greg Buchanan. He’s in this group with me. There are a few owners of this group. Right now, it’s basically myself, Kerry Johnson, who’s an Upper Cervical practitioner in Minneapolis, Julie Mayer Hunt, who’s in Tampa who you might know, Thad Vuagniaux, who’s outside of St. Louis, Greg Buchanan, who is an Upper Cervical advocate. Then there’s a bunch of people involved like Amy Holiday, who’s in the Southeast United States, Joey Miles, who’s in the southeast United States, Tony Monnin, who’s up in the Northern United States in Ohio. A lot of us are working together.

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What we want is for those patients to be able to find each other and advocate for each other.

There are other people who are more peripherally involved that are lending support to this idea, this collaborative idea. We want to have, through Greg Buchanan, something we’re creating called Friends of Upper Cervical, which when people are experiencing a health condition that they’re trying to have treatment through Upper Cervical. They currently don’t have a lot of support groups or those kinds of things or resources to get to because there are so few of us who are spread so far apart. What we want is for those patients to be able to find each other and advocate for each other and support each other and contribute to public awareness and contribute to research and have a landing place for that. That’s in development right now.

We also have Transition to Success, which Blair Schmaus in Edmonton is involved with, Thad, who’s Keryy Johnson’s associate in Minneapolis, Kalan Stittleburg in Rochester, Minnesota and Amy Holiday, who I already mentioned. They’re heading this Transition to Success. We need a place where students with an interest in Upper Cervical can find the resources to teach themselves and teach each other that’s non-technique biased, so that gives them information on techniques. We’re working with the council on Upper Cervical Care. Healthy Chiropractice is in the business of it and bringing those things to them in a really clean, non-solicitous way.

Again, as the transition, allowing people to find associateships or landing opportunities like you’ve done, you’re taking over a practice soon. You need to be able to land and train and you need to be able to stay there and grow your practice and help people and put down roots. Those are the basic pieces of what we have right now, which will eventually create basically funding for chiropractors because banks can’t pick successful chiropractors, but I think we can. We can have metrics on chiropractors like baseball cards and understand what they’ve done during an associateship. Then we can, instead of each of us taking the chance on maybe one associate, putting them in a new practice, maybe we can have 1,000 different people micro financing a practice and then investible opportunity. That’s where we’re going in the next ten years.

I like that. That’s pretty amazing. That’s a great idea.

We’re working on it. It’s a labor of love. Again, it’s just about finding the needs that exist out there in our world so that in ten years, it’s better than it is today because it’s certainly better today than it was ten years ago because of the efforts of everybody. That’s what we’re doing.

Jeff, thank you so much. I appreciate it. You’re an inspiration to me. I definitely would love to have a practice like yours someday. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast and everything. One of the things I always take away from what you said is, “Leave everything better than you found it.” I think that’s exactly what you’re doing with all the work you’re providing. You’re just making huge steps in the right direction and making a huge difference. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. It was a pleasure today. Thank you so much.

Thanks for having me, Kevin. You’re doing awesome. Keep doing everything that you’re doing to contribute to the world. You’re leaving it better than how you found it as well. Thanks for having me and thanks for doing this.

Thank you, Jeff.

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