It has often been colloquially said that the aim of chiropractic is to add years to life and life to years. While we can never tell how many years one might add to a lifespan by nurturing the nervous system, we can measure the ways in which we might add life to years. Individual case reports are one way to do this, as we look at the improvement in things like quality of life and reduction in symptomatology as people engage with chiropractic care. Larger studies have examined things like quality-of-life measures and falls risk – the latter of which is a significant concern for the aging population as the complications can be deadly.
A recent case report published in the Asia Pacific Chiropractic Journal as part of the ASRF case report project has taken a look at a fascinating case, that of a 91-year-old male who presented for care following recent unexplained weight loss and worsening memory loss. In amongst the listed concerns were balance and hearing loss, making this a case many would assume is just par for the course with aging.
When the patient in question presented for care, he reported that his memory began declining at are 65, and his vocabulary was currently about 50-60% of its prior capacity. He also reported experiencing balance issues with increasing frequency, as well as chronic hearing loss which was worse on the right side.
Many people would accept this as irreversible, connected with aging. However, this patient presented for care – and this in itself is important as chiropractors continue to advocate for care across the lifespan.
In addition to the primary concerns, the gentleman in question had a medical history of anaemia, dizziness, low blood pressure and cardiac issues requiring the use of a pacemaker. He was a regular user of antacids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Despite all this, he maintained a high level of fitness for his age and still ran two-three times per week.
The physical examination revealed an abnormal cervical spine, ligamentous instability at C4-C5 and C5-C6 (in the neck area of the spine), abnormal calcifications in the thyroid tissues, low blood oxygenation (92%), abnormal weight distribution, and abnormal balance and falls risk.
He underwent a concentrated care week that was both highly customised and neurologically focused. It was accompanied by customised modalities, therapies, and hands-on work tailored towards regenerating individual health. Received chiro care via the functional neurological technique (developed by an author of the paper ).
His course of care was combined with rest, education, and gentle (outdoor walking) type exercise over the course of a Monday-to-Friday week. During this week he received 49 low level force chiro adjustments, multiple active and passive motion therapies, multiple cryotherapy and photo-biomodulation sessions. 4 months later he commenced the second week of concentrated care during which he received 30 low level force chiro adjustments in addition to other therapies as noted above.
Following the second course of care, his examination revealed significant improvements in structural spine and improved cervical spine stability (the full details of which can be read at the reference below ).
While one might expect this given the chiropractic and functional neurological aspects of care, the rest of his outcomes are frankly impressive. They included:
- Resolution of the calcifications in his thyroid. Tests revealed they were now gone.
- There was evidence that the disc tissues between C3-C4 was beginning to regenerate.
- There was an increase in height
- His blood pressure was now within normal limits
- His blood oxygen level was now at 100%
- He had gained weight, but also had lowered visceral fat
- He self-reported improvement in balance, memory, weight gain, and hearing – all of which were major concerns when he began under care.
While partially, these outcomes are a credit to the thorough examinations taken by the attending chiropractors, they are also provide insight into the possibilities for chiropractic care in older adults. While obviously, normal case report limitations apply in that we can’t make generalisations to the whole population and that each individual under care will respond in a way that is individualised to their physiology, lifestyle, genetic and epigenetic realities, it is exciting nonetheless as it documents improvements in issues many would accept as “just life when you age.”
What does this mean for chiropractic?
Over the years, we have seen exciting research emerge from chiropractic researchers in which evidence for improvement in sensorimotor integration, cerebellar processing and cortical drive. This case provides support for the existing body of evidence, but gives it a real-world focus. Its all well and good to know that chiropractic has been documented to improve such things. It’s a different thing entirely to see how it impacts a life.
Noteably, this case may also be related to the growing idea of nervous system inflammation impacting cognition, particularly in the elderly population, and provides some evidence that chiropractic care may enhance memory in older patients. While certainly, we need more research to confirm and to look at the connection between chiropractic care, inflammation of the nervous system, and memory loss in the older adult population, both with and without a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative condition. This case presents exciting possibilities both ways!
- Kolterman, S., Martin, A., Postlethwaite, R., McIvor., C, “Improvement in memory, balance and hearing in a 91-yaer-old male under chiropractic care. A case report. Asia-Pac Chiropr. J. 2021.2.6
- Navid Muhammad Samran, Niazi Imran Khan, Lelic Dina, Amjad Imran, Kumari Nitika, Shafique Muhammad, Holt Kelly, Rashid Usman, Drewes Asbjørn Mohr, Haavik Heidi (2022). Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment Increases the Cortical Drive to the Lower Limb Muscle in Chronic Stroke Patients , Frontiers in Neurology. 12. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fneur.2021.747261
- Christiansen, T.L. Niazi, I.K. Holt, K. Nedergaard, R.W. Duehr, J. Allen, K. Marshall, P. Türker, K.S. Hartvigsen, J. Haavik, H. The effects of a single session of spinal manipulation on strength and cortical drive in athletes. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2018. 118;737–749
- Holt K, Niazi IK, Nedergaar RW, Duehr J, Amjad I, Shafique M, Anwar MN, Ndetan H, Turker KS and Haavik H (2019), “The effects of a single session of chiropractic care on strength, cortical drive, and spinal excitability in stroke patients,” Scientific Reports, 9, Article Numbers: 2673(2019), https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-39577-5retrieved 26 February 2019
- Holt, Kelly R et al, “Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care to Improve Sensorimotor Function Associated With Falls Risk in Older People: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
- Niazi, IK, Turker KS, Flavel S, Kinget M, Duehr J, Haavik H (2015), “Changes in H-reflex and V-waves following spinal manipulation,” Experimental Brain Research, April 2015, Volume 233, Issue 4, pp. 1165-1173, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00221-014-4193-5 retrieved 4 February 2019
- Staff Writer, (2016), “Greater Strength, Muscle Function and Less Fatigue,” Australian Spinal Research Foundation (Interview with Heidi Haavik), https://spinalresearch.com.au/research-project-h-reflex-and-v-waves-2/ retrieved 4 February 2019
- Haavik H, Ozyurt M, Niazi I, Holt K, Nedergaard R, Yilmaz G, Turker K (2018), “Chiropractic Manipulation Increases Maximal Bite Force in Healthy Individuals,” Brian Sciences, 2018, 8, 76; doi:10.3390/brainsci8050076
- Haavik H, Niazi I, Jochumsen M, Ugincius P, Sebik O, Yilmaz G, Samran Navid M, Gorkem Ozyurt M and Turker K (2018), “Chiropractic spinal manipulation alters TMS induced I-wave excitability and shortens the cortical silent period,” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, Volume 42 (2018), pp. 24-35
- Lelic, D, Niazi, IK, Holt, K, Jochumsen, M, Dremstrup, K, Yielder, P, Murphy, B, Drewes, A and Haavik, H (2016), “Manipulation of dysfunctional spinal joints affects sensorimotor integration in the pre-frontal cortex: A brain source localization study,” Neural Plasticity, Volume 2016 (2016).