Spinal Adjustments Eyed as Treatment For Addiction

Performing tytron diagnostic scan is the first step in using chiropractic adjustments to treat those with substance abuse disorder.

A simple painless spinal adjustment by a chiropractor could be the latest breakthrough in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. The procedure is being pioneered at a treatment facility in Bethpage.

Bridge Back to Life, an outpatient addiction treatment program, has teamed up with New York Chiropractic College (NYCC) in upstate Seneca Falls to offer the latest breakthrough therapy for substance use disorder. The first-of-a kind partnership, the brainchild of Bridge Back to Life’s medical director Dr. Russell Surasky, brings doctors from NYCC to evaluate and treat the center’s patients undergoing addiction therapy. Several diagnostic tests are performed at the base of the brainstem to determine if a misalignment exists. If present, the practitioners are taught to incorporate gentle painless, corrective spinal adjustments into the patient’s care plan. This treatment reduces stress on the spinal column and limbic system of the brain. 

Surasky says research and clinical experience indicate the brain’s limbic system becomes “hijacked” by drugs such as opiates and alcohol. 

“The limbic system is said to be the most powerful driver of human behavior and perpetuates patients’ cravings to keep using these drugs,” Surasky says. “Safe, painless adjustments to the upper cervical spinal bones can help normalize the brain’s limbic system by helping with the overall circulation of cerebrospinal fluid of the brain.”

Gary Butchen, president and CEO of Bridge Back to Life, says nearly all the center’s patients are receiving the adjustments in addition to Vivitrol and other cutting-edge medications, to help heal from addiction. An official study of patient outcomes is underway.

“I truly believe that this agreement with the college will serve as a national model for drug rehabilitation centers throughout the country,” says Surasky, who is triple board certified in neurology, addiction medicine, and preventive medicine. “Not only can spinal adjustments reduce the chronic pain issues that may have led patients into drug addiction in the first place, but now we also have evidence that spinal adjustments actually accelerate the healing of the brain from addiction.”

Surasky points to a study done in 2001 in the journal Nature: Molecular Psychiatry, which looked at the impact of spinal manipulations at an inpatient addiction treatment facility in Miami. The study found that chemically dependent patients who received specific spinal adjustments as part of their treatment reported fewer drug cravings and mental health symptoms. Moreover, 100 percent of the study patients who received chiropractic care completed the inpatient program, while about half of those not receiving treatments dropped out prior to completion. Yet no further studies were performed, and the information languished. Surasky began treating patients with the spinal adjustments at his private practice in Great Neck before bringing the treatment to Bridge Back to Life.

Mary W. came to Surasky’s Great Neck office for help with alcohol addiction nearly one year ago. She received monthly Vivitrol shots and had marked success in curbing her cravings and drastically reducing her drinking. But Mary still had one-day “slips” from time to time. She also complained of insomnia and migraine headaches. She recalled an accident in the past, where she hit her head. 

Dr. Surasky took X-rays of her upper neck and performed a Tytron scan. He said the digital images showed she had misalignments at the C1 vertebral level, likely putting pressure on the lower brainstem area. In addition to Vivitrol shots, Mary started receiving upper cervical adjustments and has remained sober since. Her migraines have dropped from five per month to one or none and she is sleeping better. 

In a release announcing the initiative, NYCC Associate Dean of Chiropractic Clinical Education and Health Centers Wendy Maneri says the partnership uses “evidence-based practices to deliver chiropractic and provide resources to help people achieve optimal health.”

“We also pride ourselves on delivering alternative solutions to drugs and surgery, which is especially important within the recovery community,” Maneri adds.

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