Updated: Jan 13
A lot of people wonder how I got into Chiropractic care, and more specifically why I started doing Upper Cervical Corrective Care. They are most surprised when they find out that I come from a Medical family and that my dad is an Orthopedic Surgeon!
How did I get into Chiropractic?
I graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science and as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (CSCS). I interned with the URI varsity teams as well as completed a senior internship at the US Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. Those experiences were amazing and I really had a passion for working with athletes as a collegiate athlete myself (I played Football and then converted to Rugby). However, when I graduated (2009) the economy was bleak and job opportunities with a livable wage were even bleaker. I decided to join my girlfriend's (now wife) father's carpentry/construction company because the pay was much better than I could get with strength and conditioning or personal training opportunities at the time, and we wanted to save to do some world traveling as soon as possible after both graduating from university. After saving for over a year we ended up going to New Zealand for a year after backpacking through Southeast Asia for 2 and half months!
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play some fairly high-level rugby in NZ, and when I returned I rejoined the semi-pro Rugby Super League, playing for Boston RFC who I had played for prior to my travels after graduating from URI. Upon returning I decided I should start my "career" in Strength and Conditioning, and took a job for $7.50 an hour because it was the only opportunity in the area that did not require 1.5 hours each way of commuting. Needless to say, the passion wained fairly quickly. I thought "If I get another degree, like an MBA I could just open my own training facility and skip the line" So I started studying for my GMAT so I could get into an MBA program. The studying was tedious and not fulfilling in any way, I was trying to re-teach myself algebra, after not having taken it in several years and knowing I was never going to need it after this test, which in hindsight was terribly demoralizing and frustrating. On top of that, I was still working for $7.50 an hour mopping gym floors and commuting to Boston 1.5 hours each way several times a week for practice and games, including traveling around the country to play each weekend. One week we were slated to head to Atlanta to play Life University. I had played against them before but had not thought twice about why they were a "University" in a men's semi-pro league. Life University was very good at the time, first ranked I believe, so I had to do some research and figure out what the deal was. It turns out Life University started as Life Chiropractic College and was the biggest and best-rated Chiropractic school at the time as well. I also realized half of their team played for the USA Eagles (the national team), and the head coach Dan Payne was also a US Eagle coach. With my ambitions to elevate my rugby career further after playing in NZ, I thought I had the pedigree to play for Life, get a better opportunity to play for team USA and heck I'd get a scholarship to Chiropractic school which sounded cool. Little did I know what I was getting into, but I knew I did not want to get into Physical Therapy or Medicine for various reasons.
I researched Chiropractic as I had never been to one before and it sounded in line with my current Strength and Conditing practice and love for health, wellness, and the human body. So I told my father the Orthopedic Surgeon what I was thinking. He was very supportive but told me to go and shadow several local Chiropractors before committing to anything. Dr. Jay Korsen was the first Chiropractor I shadowed. He instilled in me the philosophy of Chiropractic, that the body is designed to be healthy, and if we give it all that it needs, and remove anything that is working against our innate health and wellbeing that our bodies would flourish. Cool! I was already about that idea as a Strength Coach and if I got to "crack backs" to make people feel good and be healthy even better! He also gave me my first chiropractic adjustment, immediately the lights were brighter, colors more colorful, I could breathe deeper and my spine felt like it was moving easily again, and I had not had any pain previously, so if it could do that to me, and after seeing all the hurting people come and leave feeling great, imagine to possibilities!
The next Doctor my dad said to shadow was Dr. Tom Morrison. Dr. Tom was CBP (Chiropractic Biophysics) certified Chiropractor, which meant he took x-rays on every patient and analyzed their biomechanics, and then executed a corrective care plan to realign their spine and posture back to the normal or most optimal position. Dr. Tom had the same philosophy as Dr. Jay, but more of an analytical and scientific approach. That's when I really fell in love with Chiropractic as that approach really jived with my scientific and analytical way of thinking! A few months later I was enrolled in Chiropractic College at Life University and had joined the best rugby team in the country on a scholarship. Life was good!
But the story does not end there. Once I started classes I was thriving as a student (4.0 in my first year!), and as a Rugby played (2012 National Champions!), however the general curriculum for the practice and application of chiropractic was underwhelming and nothing like how Dr. Jay or Dr. Tom practiced. I became disenfranchised in the non-specific "rack and crack" manipulations they were teaching. Where was the science, the evidence, the big idea about the body healing from above down inside out (ADIO) by improving the communication between the brain the body through the spine and nervous system? The professors were talking about it, but I was not seeing it put into practice clinically on a regular basis. It was more like "move the bone and get an audible (pop or crack) and you've done a good job". That was not good enough for me! How do you know you even did anything to improve their neurological function?! Which is the whole point and reason chiropractic care was developed and gets such great results with so many conditions other than just back and neck pain.
Luckily a classmate of mine, now Doctor of Chiropractic, Ty Carzoli was in the same boat but had found an answer to the dilemma in the Pierce Results System. The Pierce Results System entailed a thorough biomechanical x-ray analysis, including a digital motion assessment of the spine so you could actually SEE the subluxation not just try to feel for it, which turns out to be extremely unreliable and subjective in the evidence-based world of healthcare and chiropractic. The Pierce Results System also uses Para-spinal Thermography to measure how the autonomic nervous system is functioning both before and after each adjustment, which shows the practitioner instantly if they are improving nervous system function with each visit and not just "moving a bone" for the sake of moving a bone. On top of that, The Pierce Results System is known for getting outstanding structural changes to people's spinal curvature and posture, just like Dr. Tom did. I was reinvigorated, I know I had found my calling.
Later in school, I found a deep appreciation for Upper Cervical specific chiropractic care which is a specialized group of techniques in Chiropractic that focus on correcting subluxations at the top of the spine in a way that is much more consistent, reproducible, and effective than merely cracking the neck or even what the Pierce Results System has to offer in terms of the analysis and care for the upper cervical spine. I felt like I had found the magic combination of approaches. I also found that these approaches worked well with all population times from pediatrics and pregnancy to geriatrics and everything in between, which really resonated with me as I no longer wanted to work with just athletes but really who the whole family as they all had spinal health and wellness needs, and not enough great doctors focusing on taking care of whole families with these advanced approaches.
I now practice the combination of the NUCCA and PRS to get the best results I believe to be possible in terms of correcting vertebral subluxations (misalignments). I also have found that using my knowledge from my past Strength and Conditioning career, along with a Masters in Sports Chiropractic that I got along with my Doctor of Chiropractic degree at Life University, allows me to adequately teach patients corrective exercises and stretches that they can use to lock in the results be more than just getting adjusted alone. This specialized approach is very hard to find in chiropractic as many DCs only focus on the specialized adjustments or the advanced exercises and stretches, not both combined.
If you haven't already check out the video interview above where Dr. Groover and I discuss why I practice the way I do along with a wide variety of topics in detail in our Get the Big Idea series.