I was interviewed
not too long ago
by the editor of
the Beacon, the
on Palmer College’s Davenport Campus. The last thing he
asked me was, “How do you bridge the gap between chiropractic
philosophy and science?” In many ways, I thought this
was the most important question of the interview. Though
it was the first time I had been asked directly to address this
issue, I realized there have been many times in the three years
since I joined Palmer that this question has been hovering in
The Merriam-Webster definition of philosophy that I feel
comes closest to what we mean by chiropractic philosophy is
“the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual
or group.” On the other hand, science is defined as “knowledge
or a system of knowledge covering general truths or a system or
method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws.”
When I read these definitions, I don’t see a gap between
philosophy and science. In fact, philosophy forms the very
foundation of our translational scientific program at the Palmer
Center for Chiropractic Research—and we’re addressing more
than low back pain. Let me give you some examples ...
Currently, we’re conducting studies to determine if chiropractic
care is effective in treating conditions such as tempormandibular
disorder, neck pain and hypertension. Hypertension research
is especially important because the condition impacts 50 million
U.S. adults, less than a quarter of whom are able to achieve
normal blood pressure levels. If chiropractic is shown to be
an effective treatment for hypertension, people living with this
disease will have an option beyond medications with side effects
and difficult-to-adhere-to lifestyle modifications.
In another study, we’re collecting data in the Palmer Clinics to
measure outcomes in real-practice situations. In this setting,
we can better explore the results you might obtain in your
own office. This type of study is a great example of how the
“translational research” we’re pursuing easily translates into
information that chiropractors throughout the world can relate
to, and most importantly, use.
Something you might not expect a chiropractic research center
to be doing is looking at chiropractic utilization and costs,
using a large government-sponsored data set. Yet having this
information can help us compare the costs of chiropractic care
to medical and other healthcare professions.
To learn more about how chiropractic adjustments impact the
nervous system, and how the subluxation impacts local tissues
and overall behavior, we’re doing experiments with animal
models. Research on cadavers is being undertaken, too, so
that we can learn more about how adjustments impact biomechanics
in the low back and neck.
These areas of inquiry can appear quite diverse initially but
there is a common thread that runs through them. Quite simply,
every scientific study we conduct is designed to answer a
few fundamental questions: Can we demonstrate our most
basic beliefs on how chiropractic works? Can we show that our
treatment concepts are effective? Are there things we can learn
that will help us take better care of patients?
In the end, every study is an attempt to reconcile our most
basic beliefs with scientific laws.