The miracle of life is within the brain stem anatomically. The upper cervical spine, the upper neck, has such a big influence on the brain. Looking at brain scans of the changes of the frontal lobe before and after spinal adjustments, we’re seeing changes in brain function when we work on the neck. If you have enhanced brain function and upper cervical vitality, you can enhance your health.
Dr. Ian Bulow is an upper cervical chiropractor who practices the Blair technique which is a very precise and gentle technique. He says we have so much mobility in the neck, but we also have an opportunity for instability to set in. Your Atlas can get banged left and right, causing a domino effect, and causing all sorts of autoimmune issues. After a while, people think that living with pain is normal, but Ian says your body is way too intelligent and too miraculous to ever give up. Ian delves into the subject of upper cervical chiropractic and how you can live a normal life again without the pain using this technique.
On the podcast we have Dr. Ian Bulow. Dr. Ian Bulow is a brilliant Blair Upper Chiropractor out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is one of the few upper cervical chiropractors in the country with a diplomat in upper cervical neurology. We’ll explain the vitality of upper cervical chiropractic and how the body is a self-healing mechanism. Through removing the interference around the brainstem allows every single body the opportunity to heal and live to its maximum potential.
Listen To The Episode Here
Upper Cervical Vitality with Dr. Ian Bulow
We have a very special guest, Dr. Ian Bulow. He’s a very talented doctor and upper cervical chiropractor. He practices the Blair technique, which we’ve had a couple other Blair doctors. It’s the chiropractic technique that saved my life. It’s a very profound specific technique. We’re just trying to get the word out there just to help as many people as we can that are going through other health issues and everything like that. Dr. Bulow, nice to be here with you.
It’s a pleasure to be here.
Where are you from originally?
I did grow up in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. For those of your listeners that are in this region of the country, don’t hold it against me. I grew up there. I come from an interesting background. I was homeschooled all the way through schooling other than college and chiropractic college. I just had a passion for people. I just really love communicating with people and helping people. I thought maybe I would get into surgery or doctoring on some kind but I couldn’t stomach the idea of cutting someone open and dealing with her insides.
Were you always drawn to that from a young age? You always knew you wanted to go into that field?
It’s always been about people for me. I got into chiropractic because it had helped me. I was in a car accident. I tried running and playing soccer. I had this terrible spine pain.
How old were you when you had the car accident?
I was probably fourteen or fifteen. My mom’s always been very natural-minded.
Yes. She always took vitamins, always ate healthy. She took me to the area chiropractor and I had some work done. It helped me out.
None upper cervical chiropractic?
No, this experience was a standard chiropractic experience, just standard spinal manipulation down the back. A few weeks later I’m feeling better. I never really thought about it as a profession until I had met a couple of guys that are friends of mine that were really healthy. They are other homeschoolers. We were home one day and we were having lunch. Their dad was a chiropractor and he came home for lunch. I thought, “I can help people. I can help their health and I can have lunch with my family.” That’s what got me into the profession. Fast forward, I got into upper cervical in school, practiced that specifically.
How did you get into upper cervical? Not many people know about it even in chiropractic school.
It was the results of the assessments. When you go to any kind of doctor, you should have some type of before and after testing. You should know your numbers. I saw these upper cervical practitioners and they were getting better assessments in the full spine when they’re just adjusting the neck. My analytical brain says, “If you can do for the full back what I’m trying to do but with less maneuvers, then I’ve got to at least start there. Otherwise I’m going to be repeating unnecessary things.” I met a guy named James Tomasi. Have you talked about James Tomasi before?
EM 62 | Upper Cervical Vitality Upper Cervical Vitality: Trigeminal neuralgia is like having a root canal done in your mouth without any Novocain. It’s debilitating.
James Tomasi, for people who don’t know him, he’s a gentleman who had trigeminal neuralgia. I think we can talk about that. For those of you that don’t know, trigeminal neuralgia is like having a root canal done in your mouth without any Novocaine, without any warning. It just pops in. It’s debilitating. They call it the suicide disease because it is so bad. Here’s this guy who comes through an upper cervical club at school. He’s talking from the stage about his experience with upper cervical.
Was he a doctor or a patient?
He was a patient.
That’s when you know it’s powerful when you have the patients going out there and telling everybody.
He shows up and his story is he had trigeminal neuralgia for twelve years. Most patients with trigeminal neuralgia, it hits them intermittently like lightning strikes. He had it relatively constant for the last two years of that twelve-year period. He had gotten to the point where he’s going to kill himself like a lot of patients do. He decided he was going to kill himself on a Tuesday afternoon. He had it all set up. His wife was going to be going to pick up their son from school, he had a revolver in the nightstand. His wife came home the weekend before and all excited.
She says, “I heard this specialist on the radio and I set you an appointment. I’m really excited.” By this time, he had been everywhere. He had his teeth pulled. He had seen multiple chiropractors, acupunctures, medical doctors and was drugged to the max. The drugs just made him groggy and made him not care about life anymore. It didn’t take away the pain, it just made him not care. His wife said, “It’s a new doctor in town and I set you an appointment.” He says, “What is it?” She said, “It’s a chiropractor. I set you an appointment on Tuesday next week.” That was the day he’s going to kill himself.
This is where I get goosebumps because it was the same name of his book. He wrote a book and it was the question he asked his wife. His question to her was, “What time Tuesday?” He wanted to make sure it fit in his plan. He didn’t have any expectations, he was just going to do it for her. She said, “It’s first thing in the morning.” He said, “That’s fine.” He was going to kill himself in the afternoon, go in the morning. People can go right now to WhatTimeTuesday.com, he has a book called What Time Tuesday? He goes, the doctor does this precision analysis, looks at images, does this little gentle correction behind the ear.
He walks out, it doesn’t feel a darn bit of change. He does a recheck on him and apparently things have changed but he doesn’t feel any different. He goes in the car. His wife checks out, wife gets in the car and his question was, “You didn’t pay them. Did you?” He was ticked. He spent his last morning on Earth wasting his time in an office that didn’t know any different. He gets home all disgruntled, lies in bed and he’s watching the clock. He’s watching as the numbers flip over in that old dial clock and he’s just waiting.
A moment comes where all of a sudden he stops and he says, “The pain’s gone.” He just all of a sudden realized. He calls his wife. Something’s weird. Something’s not right. She comes upstairs. By the time she gets to the top of the stairs, the pain was back. He’s like, “It’s psychology. My subconscious is trying to convince me not to kill myself.” He sends her away, just ticked off again at the world. An hour later it lets up again. Only this time instead of a few minutes it lets up for ten to fifteen minutes. Something’s different. I’m still getting goosebumps when I think about it but this is the story he told in the class. Every ten minutes in the class he would stop. He would stare at us and he just looked at us and say, “Have I told you guys I love you yet?”
He would say that to chiropractic students. He’d say things like, “We need you.” What am I supposed to do? Am I going to go back to other techniques? There’s nothing wrong with those techniques. What am I supposed to do here? I’m done. I’m upper cervical from then on out. I graduated in 2008. I took a diplomate program, which is a three-year postgraduate that ended in 2015. We are a straight upper cervical, precise, the Blair technique, 3D CT images, infrared scanning and a lot of the same things that you do. Just really pushing the envelope to be as precise and thorough with our community because clearly, it can change lives.
Why does upper cervical work? What is it about the technique that creates all these miracles?
I would say it’s because the body works. We say, “Expect miracles.” The founder, BJ Palmer of Palmer School of Chiropractors where all this came from would say, “We go to doctors and we get drugged up. We get conditions that we manage over our life.” When we get well, we think it’s a miracle. When really that’s the norm. We should heal. It doesn’t heal because we’re overmedicated. We’re subluxated, we’re misaligned and we’re stressed out. Our body just can’t operate freely. Upper cervical works because the body works. The body works because it’s got this brain and the brainstem. That’s where the miracle of life is. You can remove every part of your body, put it on bypass but you cannot do that to the brainstem.
The miracle of life is within the brainstem anatomically, the upper cervical spine, the upper neck, because it has such a big influence on the brain. We’re looking at MRI studies before and after adjustments. We’re looking at all kinds of brain scans, looking at the change of the frontal lobe before and after spinal adjustments. We’re seeing changes in brain function when we work on the neck. If we can enhance your brain function, your brain function can enhance your health.
The other thing I would say is it’s a delicate area. Just because the area is important doesn’t mean you can go home and manipulate your own neck and call it a correction. You can’t fall down a flight of stairs, snap, crackle and pop your whole way down and say, “I fixed my neck.” Not usually, because falling down the stairs is not advisable. Somewhere between falling down the stairs and a 3D image guided precision correction, there’s this range of taking care of your neck.
Upper cervical tends to be on the side of the 3D image guided correction. It’s really analytical work. If there’s a misalignment at the base of your skull choking off your life supply, then we’re going to get in there and we’re going to respect it. We’re going to take images. We’re going to do infrared scanning. We’re going to see when you need to be adjusted, when you need to be left alone so we don’t over adjust and how to adjust you in such a way that you barely feel it. It’s super gentle but yet we’re doing pre/post-testing to make sure we’re reducing inflammation level.
It’s got the philosophy, the science and the art. We look at chiropractic as a holistic, three-legged stool of philosophy, science and art. We’ve got the philosophy of life is intelligent, give it a chance. We use science. A lot of infrared imaging, a lot of three-dimensional imaging and very precise. The art of very gently adjusting them, turning, twisting, cracking or popping. Not that there’s anything wrong with the rest of it. It’s just that we really want to be as precise and gentle as possible. That’s really what drew me in and that’s where I think upper cervical really excels.
EM 62 | Upper Cervical Vitality Upper Cervical Vitality: When we have so much mobility, we now have an opportunity for instability to set in.
I want to talk about trauma. A lot of people say, “I’ve never been in a huge car accident, I never had any trauma. How on earth am I feeling like this? Why am I feeling like this?” Realistically, it doesn’t take much for those two bones, the Atlas and the Axis. They weigh a couple of ounces and they support your head that weighs ten to thirteen pounds given on the person. There’s no disc space up there. It’s a very vulnerable area with the most neurological significance. For the people that don’t have subluxation bone out of place, how does somebody misalign like that?
If you look at it, it’s a beautiful design. The top of your neck, the C1 bone is called the Atlas bone because it holds your world. It doesn’t have any discs above or below it. It’s what allows you to nod your head yes, so your chin comes up and chin comes down as well as right, chin right, chin left. That allows you to see the world. If you didn’t have that range of motion and you were to get in a car accident, if you had a solid piece of PVC piping in your neck with holes drilled in it for your nerves, you were to tumble down the stairs, you would fracture your neck and die. That mobility allows for a great life experience as well as forgiveness when you do take a fall, when you do get in a car accident.
However, when we have so much mobility, we now have an opportunity for instability to set in. The research is pretty clear. You can be in a car and it get rear-ended or front-ended by about ten to twelve miles an hour and that’s enough to create ligament damage in the upper neck. They’ve done pre and post MRI. People who are in high-impact injuries have four times as likely in a situation where the brain sags, Sagging Brain Syndrome or Chiari type 0.
The cerebellum part of the brain actually dips down into the spinal canal. It’s like a dish rag in your kitchen sink, it clogs the fluid. If your fluid can’t go up and down and in and out, it pressurizes your head. You’ve got people with a pressurized headache, pounding headache, mental fog, post-concussion syndrome, high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, trouble swallowing and all of that stuff.
That’s a brainstem, upper neck issue from trauma. The neck and the back and the holes that go through them that allow the nerves that come out, are a lot like the heart and the arteries where the blood pulses through. When you have stenosis of the artery, plaquing and clogging and all that, the end organs that depend on the blood and oxygen supply suffer. What I’ve seen clinically are patients that have degenerated and arthritic spines tend to be the sickest people that I see. It’s not a coincidence.
They are the ones that are on chronic medication use and chronic problems. They are also the ones that had the injuries. People with arthritis in their spine and have a lot of these issues around a ton of medications. I promise you, if you look back, if you’re one of those people that are taking a lot of meds, have been to a lot of doctors, they told you that you have arthritis and all that, I want you to think back. I can almost guarantee you in your high school and college years you had to have had some kind of a whiplash injury, some accident, a difficult labor and stitches on your forehead.
Or have fallen off the monkey bars, it could be anything.
I think that was your point bringing it up, I noticed there.
It’s because a lot of people can’t connect the dots.
I see what you’re saying. I learned that the first time this past winter. It was the first time I went skiing. I went skiing with my kids and I took some tumbles, not a lot, but a couple of them. Snow is not soft and I got a bit of whiplash. I’m thinking to myself, “Everybody does that.” Unless you go to the hospital and you have a broken bone, you’re going to think it’s fine. People are in whiplash injuries and car accidents all the time. Unless they have a broken bone, the doctor says, “Here’s this muscle relaxer.” That person goes to the chiropractor and twenty years later won’t even remember that, won’t even mention it. Every time you fall off the playground, when you’re in school, a kid pulls the chair out from under you, you land on your tailbone, that thing messes you.
At Pittsburgh, we have a park called Kennywood. It’s an amusement park. In Kennywood, there’s a ride called the Steel Phantom. It’s Phantom’s Revenge now, which is the second edition. The support bars came down on the chest and around the shoulders. It was a hard-dense rubber and it sat right at the level of your neck. We would go in high school, we’d be in the marching band.
I told all my buddies, “Let’s wait until the end.” It’s because I knew darn well after that darn ride, I would get a migraine every year. I’d go on it, I’d get a migraine. Do you know how many lives it probably ruined? Every time it took a bend, your head will whiplash to the side and your neck would get punched by that support. Your atlas is getting banged left and right. Stuff like that can absolutely set in motion the domino effect. Years later that person is going to have digestive issues, autoimmune issues and all of that.
People think after a while living with pain is normal, that they can live a normal life again. They just get used to the pain levels and the medications just keeps piling on. They’re just masking the symptoms.
It’s important for people to realize that you can do better. It’s not coming from a place of judgment, it’s coming from a place of encouragement. If you’re on a lot of medications, don’t give up. You’ve got an intelligence in you that’s in there. We just need to get in and try and reverse things and correct things back to the way things are. If you’ve been to tons of doctors, been in tons of chiropractors, that’s all right. Your body is way too intelligent and too miraculous to ever give up hope. What you were saying is a dangerous condition where people learn to live with it. It becomes this label.
I was that person. I had a traumatic brain injury. I will never live a normal life again because I had so many people telling me that. You start to believe them.
We don’t want to give false hope but we never want to give up hope. I’ve just seen too many cases of people that have been through it all and said that they’re never going to get better, and then they get better. Just come in for a scan, or a quick evaluation and see, “Is there something in here that could be diminishing the quality of life coming from your brain?” If there is, we’ll tell you what you need to do in order to fix it. If there’s not, then we’ll partner with you and find someone in your community that can help. It’s always worth at least consulting.
You do get some of those people during their first adjustment, they are thrilled. Everything is fantastic. For most of our patients, it’s a wild ride back to health. It’s not a straight shot back up. It dips down and goes back up and it definitely takes a little bit.
I tell my patients that the first two to three weeks is like a rollercoaster. I also tell them it’s a lot like braces. You get those brackets on when you’re straightening out a misaligned spine. An upper neck subluxation is a misalignment that affects the nerve impulses and the health of your brain. As a whole, stepping back, it’s a misaligned, twisted spine.
If I want to straighten that spine out, it’s a lot like straightening your teeth. When you slap braces on, you tighten them. You adjust the tension of the wires. Those teeth that are crooked have to become straight and that doesn’t always feel great. Some things will get better, some things will flare up. As long as your indicators, every good doctor should have before and after indicators, are trending in the right direction, we know that you’re going to come out of this whole.
The pretty cool thing about the work we do is its reason. To quote Jim Rohn, “Measurable progress in reasonable time.” We can see the shoulders and hips leveling off, we’re going to know you’re going to make some good progress here in a reasonable time. There’s research on this upper cervical care. The first seventeen days, headaches, neck and back pain on average are about halfway better in seventeen days. That’s crazy. Satisfaction rating in that study was nine-point-one out of ten. Really happy folks, reducing pain, getting better quality of life within the first couple of weeks of their care. That’s not bad. It doesn’t mean you’re 100% doing cartwheels and rainbows. It means you’re making measurable progress in very reasonable time.
EM 62 | Upper Cervical Vitality Upper Cervical Vitality: Upper cervical chiropractic helps with so many conditions.
As upper cervical chiropractors because we know it helps with so many conditions: fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, migraines, neck pain and back pain, why do we say things like we don’t treat symptoms in our office?
If I wanted you to be out of pain, I’d hook you to a Morphine drip. My job is not to treat your pain. That’s what really a good pain center does or neurologist or what have you. There’s a difference between health enhancement and disease management. If you have a headache, you can take a Tylenol and it’s going to take care of that headache. It does nothing for any other area of your body but it does help your headache. That’s covered by insurance, it makes sense. It’s all A to B to C, square problems, square solution, it all works.
If you go to a wellness doctor, like a chiropractor or a nutritionist or a dietician and they say, “How much water have you had to drink?” You say, “Does Pepsi count?” They’ll say, “No, you’ve got to drink water.” Then you’ll say, “I’m going to start drinking water.” You start drinking water and your headaches go away. I go back to my doctor, I go back to my insurance company. I said, “I just started drinking a ton of water. My headaches are gone. That’s really cool. Here’s my receipt to do the grocery store, like reimbursement for my water please.” Blue Cross would say, “I’m sorry. We do not cover water.” I’ll say, “What do you mean? I treated my headache.” That’s not actually a treatment for a condition. Water is something that just enhances the quality of your life, so we don’t cover that.
It’s like the car insurance, it’s going to cover the wreck but not the oil change. In chiropractic, when you really come down to it, it comes down to brass tacks. We are correcting spinal misalignments to improve the quality of brain function, which drives the innate intelligence of your body. Your body wants to heal. That adaptability and control is driven by the brainstem.
If we open that channel up where the brain can communicate, it doesn’t matter if your problem is neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, hip pain, knee pain, stomach pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS or Parkinson’s. I don’t care what it is. If you take the pressure off the area that runs your body and allow it to run, you will run better. I can’t guarantee where you’re going to head but I know you’ve got a miracle inside you. I know you’re going to go in a good direction. It’s simple but yet as complex as that.
That’s why we say we don’t treat things because at the core of it, our intention is not to Band-Aid you up, it’s to free you up. If we can do that, it’s more congruent, it has more integrity. The problem is we can do that with amazing things but culturally we’ve been trained that I need a treatment for my condition. Unless I tell you, upper cervical has been shown to help people with Parkinson’s disease.
I can tell you it helps the brain but unless I say it helps with Parkinson’s, you wouldn’t make the connection. There’s this tight rope that we walk as providers in upper cervical where we want to be true to what we know is the truth, which is we’re freeing you up because your body has got this intelligence. If we can help the brain run better, you will run better.
At the same time, we’ve got to connect the dots for folks so that they understand. The weight of your head will cause your shoulders and back to get tight. We do great work with neck and shoulder and back patients and sciatic patients and all of that. We also have to explain, at the bottom of your brain, there’s a nerve called the vagus nerve. Research shows that when you correct upper neck misalignments, it helps your blood pressure lower. People with high blood pressure had a drop in systolic blood pressure, the first number by fourteen points. A placebo group who didn’t know they were getting a sham adjustment had no change at all. That was a Dickholtz study in 2007, 2008. It hit Good Morning America, it’s a great study.
EM 62 | Upper Cervical Vitality Upper Cervical Vitality: You can’t live a fraction of a second without your brainstem functioning.
We need to connect the dots. If people have questions, they should ask, contact you, contact us and we’ll find if there’s research that supports it. Either way, we’d want to check and see. This is your brain. You can live so long without food. You can live so long without water. You can’t live very long without air. You can’t live a fraction of a second without your brainstem functioning. We just say, “Let’s just look.” Speaking of conditions that people may not think about, babies, they’re born, you check their heart, liver, you check everything but what about the neck?
Especially when they’re using the forceps to extract them out or C-sections.
All three of my girls were caesarean, which I don’t love. I don’t say this with judgment but it’s the most traumatic you can have. My nephew was a failed induction, my sister labored with my nephew. When that didn’t work, they did an emergency caesarean and cut her open, pulled him out by the head. First, his head is compressed, then it’s yanked. He was a really sick baby, in and out of the ER. It’s one of those things where you don’t know unless you check and see.
Imagine someone who has no idea of the benefits of water. They grew up on Pepsi. They have all these health issues and they’re getting medicated. People look at chiropractic and they’ll say, “You do that on kids?” What’s the alternative? You’re going to go on medications on the baby? You’re going to go on surgery? We’re very friendly with neurologists. There’s no problem with us in medicine. We’re just saying least invasive and most invasive. Most medical doctors that we interface with, when they learn about specifically upper cervical, and all the research behind it, they’re totally fine. We get referrals from doctors and neurosurgeons.
It’s because it benefits both of us. It helps their patients out who become ours. It’s a win-win.
I’m really not bashing medicine at all. There’s a time and place and thank God for medicine. I remember my daughter, we’re at a fourth of July community event and someone stepped on her foot and tore her toe open. There was an EMS nearby. This nice guy sutured her up and did everything. As a parent man, I wanted to kiss him. All he did was give her a Band-Aid and a butterfly stitch. I think it would be awesome to be in medicine. Everything has its place. The point is if you’re on a lot of medications and you’re not getting better but you’re just chronically in a state, in a funk, let’s talk. Let’s see if we can turn it up a little bit that power that comes from the brain.
Dr. Bulow, where are you located? Where can people find you on the internet and all that?
For those of you, this is something that I want to do. I’ve been doing live videos on my clinic’s Facebook page which is Revived UCC. People can find us on the website, on Facebook and me on Instagram. The clinical page is www.ReviveUCC.com or RevivePittsburgh.com. They both go to the same place. On Facebook it’s Facebook.com/ReviveUCC.
The clinical brand is Revive Upper Cervical Chiropractic. If they want to connect with me on Instagram, I am now a self-proclaimed Millennial. I’ve got an Instagram account and that’s @DrIanBulow. On YouTube we’re at Revive UCC. Eventually I’m going to start a podcast and a vlog myself because this information needs to get out and everybody’s on the Internet and not everybody’s listening to everybody else. There’s a time and place for all of us to go out and spread these messages, which is why I’m happy to do it and this is a lot of fun. I like it.
Dr. Bulow, this is one question I like to ask all my guests at the end of the show. What is one piece of advice or information you’ve taken with over the years that’s really stuck with you that you’d like to share with the audience?
EM 62 | Upper Cervical Vitality Upper Cervical Vitality: Don’t give up. Health is a journey. You have to become obsessed with the journey, not the destination.
Right off the top of my head is don’t give up. We’re talking about health and in that category, it’s a journey. The one piece of advice that transcends all of this when we’re talking about don’t give up is you have to become obsessed with the journey, not the destination. If said in another way, success in any area of your life is the thing that you attract or the thing that you pull into your life by the person you become. The journey is the process. It’s the learning. It’s the doing.
The reward is what people think they want, “I think I want to be healthy. I think I want to get good grades. I think I want a good job.” You think you want to be a better person at those areas of your life. For you to get a better job, for you to get good grades, for you to get healthy, you have to become different. In health, if I want to become healthy, what kind of person do I have to become? What’s the journey I have to obsess about? I have to be a person who exercises. I’ve never thought of myself that way, but I’m going to have to.
You’ve got to exercise, you’ve got to become a good researcher. You have to step up in a lot of areas in your life to become that person.
If you’re one of those people who wants to go to the chiropractor for the rest of your life, if you want to have a properly functioning spine and nervous system, then you don’t have to. If you want to be as optimum health as you can, you’ll have to be that person who goes in every now and again. It doesn’t mean three times a week. It just means a few times a year at least. Are you going to have to eat right? Yeah. If you want to take Tylenol for the rest of your life, if you want to be in and out of the hospital, that’s fine too.
The best advice is no matter what you want in your life, think about what kind of person would I have to become to get that. If I want good grades, people who get good grades, what kind of people are they? Do they study? Yeah. Do they have certain life habits? Is it a coincidence that ultra-successful people get up at 5:00 AM and exercise? Probably not. Probably something to that, “Am I going to have to be one of those early risers if I want to have a successful business?” Probably.
Thank you so much for coming on. Thank you, everyone. I really appreciate it. I can’t wait to hear more from this guy over here.
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