A collaboration between chiropractic research leaders Dr. Heidi Haavik and Dr. Bernadette Murphy has reaped international recognition, as the World Federation of Chiropractic bestowed the Scott Haldeman Award on their work. The award winning study was facilitated by the Australian Spinal Research Foundation. The study titled ‘Neck pain participants show impaired ability to perform a mental rotation task in a four week longitudinal study as compared to healthy controls,’ was awarded the $12,000 prize at the recent WFC congress in Athens. To Dr. Heidi Haavik, this represents only a drop in an ocean of chiropractic research yet to be done.
The Athens WFC was followed up with a two-week stint in Turkey working with Professor Kemal Turker, a leading neurophysiologist who has collaborated with the New Zealand College of Chiropractic a number of times in recent years. The Turkish tour was focused on the effect of chiropractic care on the way the brain processes different types of sensory stimulation, and the completion of two additional projects with Professor Turker .
Before returning to her native New Zealand, Haavik travelled with Dr. Murphy to Denmark for more collaborative work with Dr. Dina Lelic and Professor Asbjørn Drewes, this time focused on identifying the regions of the brain most influenced by chiropractic adjustments.
Dr. Heidi Haavik is tireless in her research, and this is evidenced in the growing body of work mounting up on her desk. “We’ve currently got about 65 studies designed and ready to go. There are about another 50 manuscripts waiting to be written up. But it’s a matter of time and resources,” she says.
Understanding the mechanisms behind why chiropractic works is something that is vitally important according to Haavik, not only for chiropractors and the way they communicate with their practice members, but also in terms of future research itself.
“We are right at the beginning. This is why it’s really fun to be a researcher. Nothing’s been done. I think personally, there are several lines of research that are very important. You can look at the basic mechanisms, and you can look at the clinical outcomes of specific problems. Until you fully understand the mechanisms, you can design the wrong clinical trials, so I personally think the basic mechanisms research is the most important. You can be focusing on one population for a clinical study when really you should be looking at a subpopulation. Understanding the mechanisms is going to be very informative to help us identify which subpopulations we are most likely to help with chiropractic care.”
“Another reason understanding the mechanisms is important for future chiropractic research is that it elucidates where our adjustments have the greatest impact. For example, there are studies that conclude chiropractic isn’t effective for knee pain, but when you take a closer look at the study and see that they only manipulated the knee, this makes me think twice. Our work has shown significant brain changes based on adjusting dysfunctional spinal segments (or what we call subluxations).
So knowing this, when I see a study like that I’m thinking ‘Okay, this study shows knee manipulation does not help knee pain, but if they had checked and adjusted vertebral subluxations as well in this study then the results may have been completely different. So based on the knee manipulation results alone we should not be concluding that chiropractic care is not effective for knee pain, because the effects of chiropractic care have not yet fully been investigated. “
For Haavik, all this effort is about certainty, and about the potential to impact many more people who need chiropractic.
We are at an important time in the history of chiropractic. It’s a time where baby boomers are aging and concerned with maintaining health. It’s also a time where the internet and social media are more readily connecting intelligent consumers of all ages with information regarding health and wellbeing. Never has it been so important for us to be backing research and getting the word out to our tribe.
By supporting and creating quality research, we are able to equip people with the information they need to make good health care decisions for themselves and their families. We are able to stand with confidence, certainty and clarity to say “Chiropractic works. Here’s why.” What a powerful gift research and knowledge can be.
Spinal Research has a long history of collaborating with Dr. Heidi Haavik to enable valuable research to take place. Studies that have been enabled by the Spinal Research-Heidi Haavik partnership include:
- Chiropractic care and the cortical silent period
- The effect of chiropractic care on synchronised pelvic floor muscle contraction
- Randomised controlled trial of the effects of sixteen weeks of chiropractic care on objective markers of sensorimotor function in older people
- The effect of chiropractic care on cerebellar function.