Dr James Gray from Gray Chiropractic and Natural Health Care in Independence, Missouri has agreed to share some of his knowledge about natural health treatments with us.
He is active in his community where he has established a relationship with many medical doctors, who refer patients to him for his natural health treatments, because they have seen the results that he has been able to achieve.
Dr Gray, Welcome.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your experience and expertise about chiropractic care with us. I found your website graychiropractic.com when researching chiropractors, and I was very impressed by how professional and informative your website and your practice seem to be.
Please tell us briefly about yourself and your involvement with chiropractic care and health care in general, the services you have to offer, and the web blog that you write.
Thanks, Dave, for the opportunity to participate and add to your discussion in relieving chronic pain. For the past 15 years, I’ve been a chiropractor in the Eastern suburbs of Kansas City, MO. While attending chiropractic school, although I’ve always been skeptic of unproven treatment methods, I vowed to keep an open mind and research as many health care ideas as I could.
I would often attend seminars with a notion that I would be gaining the knowledge I would need to warn my patients about the dangers of fringe treatments. Often, I came away with that very outcome. However, I was surprised at how many times I came away with more answers than I had expected, and a sincere desire to learn more about a particular technique.
Today, Gray Chiropractic offers a wide variety of natural health care alternatives to traditional medicine. The majority of cases we deal with involve traditional, evidence-based chiropractic care, but I think the secret to our success is in the integration of multiple treatment methods and techniques.
In addition to chiropractic care, we utilize and provide in our office both passive and active adjunctive physiotherapy, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, dietary and nutritional counseling, massage therapy, and sports care.
One aspect of our office that may differ from your readers’ past experiences is our emphasis and desire to communicate and coordinate care with our patients’ medical doctors. I vowed after leaving school that I was not going to participate in the partisan bickering between our professions that doesn’t benefit our patients and equates to nothing more than a turf war. It is only by communication, cooperation, and the integration of the vast array of health care choices that we can achieve optimum results.
As a Teacher
I tell all of my patients that the original definition for the Latin word for doctor meant “teacher.” As physicians, it is our responsibility to evaluate a patient’s body as a whole and give them all of the information they need to make an informed decision. Contrary to popular belief, neither I nor any other doctor can make you partake in any treatment recommendations. Nor can we insure that you will continue to follow our recommendations once you are not under active and regular care.
Ultimately, it is the patient that is responsible for their health… for better or worse. Therefore, it is imperative that we teach our patients about the many choices they have, and the consequences associated with each. In my blog, I try to discuss the health care issues that face us all in a blunt and clear manner. There is so much misinformation out there; it’s hard for patients to get a clear and unbiased message. I try to write about a wide variety of issues from a natural health care perspective, but leave out the fluff and sales-influenced propaganda.
1. Dr Gray, after reading some of your blogs I get the impression that you have some pretty strong feelings about medical care in the United States.
I do have very strong feelings about medical care in our country. However, I hope I’ve not given the impression that my feelings are anti-medicine. I write some pretty scathing rebukes when necessary, but I don’t care what profession the bull comes from… if it’s crap, it’s crap. I think what I get most upset about is sales propaganda disguised as health care authority or advice. This comes from all directions and all professions, and I’ve got no problem pointing it out when I can.
What first led you to get involved in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine?
While in chiropractic school, I had a friend invite me to attend a weekend seminar to fulfill some of our elective credit requirements. I had always thought acupuncture was going to be one of those techniques that I would debunk and warn my patients about. “I mean seriously… you’re going to tell me that you can stick a needle in a woman’s ankle and relieve her menstrual cramps? Gimme a break!”
However, by the end of that one weekend, I was fascinated. I couldn’t wait to learn more. I immersed myself in reading new and old material alike, and immediately signed up for the full post-doctoral program. Since then, I have continued to study and learn about acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. I read several books and attend continuing education seminars multiple times every year. I never fail to come away with something I didn’t know before. Acupuncture is an art that takes years to learn and a lifetime to master.
Does it work for everyone? Of course not. It is no more a “cure-all” than chiropractic or pharmaceuticals are. Acupuncture is merely one more treatment choice and method that we have in our arsenal to fight disease and discomfort.
2. In your practice at Gray Chiropractic you use axial traction and intersegmental traction to distract the spine and open up the vertebral spaces. How does this compare to treatment with the DRX9000 that some practices are promoting?
The DRX9000 (or the VAX-D, Lordex, DRS, etc.) are computerized axial traction devices. Although I don’t have any problem with the tables or techniques themselves, I do object to some of the questionable marketing practices used by some to sell these treatments.
I found an article from the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy titled “Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy: does the scientific literature support efficacy claims made in the advertising media?” published in May 2007. The article examines this “heavily marketed” version of traction therapy that “can cost over $100,000.”
The authors extensively search all the major medical and scientific literature databases to find every scientific research article published on nonsurgical spinal decompression. It turns out; there was only 1 randomized controlled trial, 1 clinical trial, 1 case series and 7 other papers. Each was reviewed individually. The authors concluded that “In general the quality of these studies is questionable.” And that there was “only limited evidence…available to warrant the routine use of non-surgical spinal decompression, particularly when many other well investigated, less expensive alternatives are available.
I would have to agree with the conclusions of the authors. Spinal decompression does work as designed, but I’ve not seen evidence that it is any more effective than other treatment methods that are readily available and much less expensive. There are relatively few cases that will respond only to this form of treatment, yet will not also obtain comparable results from flexion-distraction, chiropractic with exercise, axial traction, or a simple inversion table.
3. You offer Nutrition Response Testing and Designed Clinical Nutrition in your chiropractic practice. I read the explanation on your website and found it very interesting, but I didn't quite understand how it was developed or where it originated. It seems to be related to traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture treated with modern dietary supplements. Can you tell us how it was developed and how it made its way into your practice?
Nutrition Response Testing is a technique that has developed through the conglomeration of numerous techniques over the years. Founded and developed by a pair of doctors in New York, their research was originally was based on the work of the “Founding Fathers of Modern Nutrition:”
Dr. Royal Lee, Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, Dr. Melvin E. Page and Dr. Weston A. Price, and a modification of Contact Reflex Analysis. These techniques involve muscle testing and energy work that is not well understood, however, I can’t argue with results.
My primary complaint lies with the subjective nature of the muscle testing, and inter-examiner reliability. That said; the muscle testing and reflex points designed to illicit response follow closely along historical reflex points from traditional Chinese philosophy and acupuncture meridians.
In practice, I had begun to see a pattern of declining health of the general population that traditional methods (chiropractic or medical) were not addressing as completely as they used to. By process of elimination, I found that dietary weakness and malnutrition was playing a role in the failing health of our society.
Deep down, this is something that we all know, but due to the diarrhetic glut of information available about this vitamin for that and that vitamin for this, we don’t know where to start! I was determined to increase my ability to teach my patients how to eat better, and how to choose only those supplements that will benefit each individual situation.
Everyone, and every case, is different. I needed a way to evaluate my patients to determine where the underlying dysfunction or weaknesses were, and how to individually tailor our response to those problems.
In addition to the basic NRT muscle testing, we add computerized heart rate variability tests, and a full-body systems questionnaire to evaluate the function and efficiency of the autonomic nervous system. It would be pointless to recommend certain supplements if the body can’t respond properly or use it once it’s in there. As in traditional Chinese medicine, the goal is to have all of the body’s systems functioning optimally, in balance and harmony.
Although we won’t be able to be as specific as an office visit, we are currently working on a way to put the full-body symptom questionnaire online so patients can complete and submit it for review. Once submitted, we will review the results and develop a comprehensive report that details the primary underlying systemic weaknesses that will allow us to formulate an individual supplementation plan.
When we can get this up and running, we will be able to offer patients throughout the continental U.S. the opportunity to get a detailed and individualized plan which will take the guess work out of choosing which supplements will be most beneficial to take. If the patient chooses, they could then order and have their supplements shipped directly to them.
4. Chiropractic treatments kind of have a reputation as being for little old people with arthritic spines, but I see that you are doing much more. As a team chiropractor for the Missouri Mavericks hockey team you work with athletes in a very rough sport. What can chiropractic do for regular people who don't play contact sports?
Wow… After a hundred fifteen years of research, treatment, and results, I hope the majority of people don’t still think of chiropractic as “being for little old people with arthritic spines.” But, perhaps you’re right in that most people don’t really know what we do, or the philosophy of chiropractic.
In short, chiropractic is a science and art within the health care field that focuses on the neuromusculoskeletal system and how it affects the entire body. The underlying tenets would have to include the fact that the body is designed to heal itself and operate at homeostasis, or balance.
The nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, controls and coordinates all of the body’s systems and is in charge of making sure the left hand knows what the right is doing. Disruption or interference within the nervous system can lead to pain, dysfunction, and disease. Instead of treating the symptoms of a condition, chiropractic attempts to treat the underlying dysfunction that is leading to the symptoms… thus facilitating the body to heal itself.
As with the medical field, there are emerging several specialties within the chiropractic community. There are chiropractic internists, radiologists, sports physicians, pediatricians, etc. The major difference between a DC and an MD is primarily that we don’t prescribe pharmaceuticals, and we don’t perform surgeries.
If a patient would prefer a natural approach to health, the chiropractor is an essential part of their health care team. I have many patients who consider me their “primary care physician,” and we just refer them on in those cases where pharmaceuticals are necessary.
As for my role with the Mavs, most every professional sports team has a chiropractor on staff or associated. The reason is that optimal function of the neuromusculoskeletal system leads to optimal performance on the ice, on the gridiron, on the diamond, on the court, etc. With optimal function, you also minimize the risk of injury and optimize recovery.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Mavs since their inception and have seen some pretty crazy injuries. However, when it gets right down to it, there are many professions that are as hard on the body as hockey. For example, framing carpenters lift, carry, climb, walk on uneven surfaces, hammer, nail, etc. all day every day.
The difference is, the carpenter doesn’t consider the athleticism of their occupation so they don’t focus on stretching before and after working, and they don’t tailor their diet to maximize their abilities to perform and recover. This leads to excess wear and tear on the body and results in premature degeneration.
Most every profession has its own inherent stresses and strains. If optimal function benefits athletes by allowing them optimal performance, risk, and recovery… then why would the rest of us be any different? Everyone can benefit from optimal performance, minimal risk, and optimal recovery.
5. You certainly appear to be in excellent physical condition and you promote good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle in your practice at Gray Chiropractic. What do you do to keep yourself in top shape and how do you educate your patients about the importance of exercise and physical training as a part of healthy living?
I exercise several times per week, but not in a traditional manner. I’ve never been one who has been satisfied with sitting in the gym lifting weights. Frankly, it bores me. Therefore, I mix it up.
Tennis, golf, hockey, running on the elliptical trainer, some weights, chasing the kids, walking the dogs, you name it. Most of the time, it’s not important how long or how hard you exercise… just that you do it!
As for diet, I’m not a fanatic. I’m just realistic. I understand that the produce in our grocery stores has approximately 35-40% of the nutritional content of the same produce from 40 years ago. Therefore, I practice what I preach and take individualized supplements specific to my current state.
For my patients, my biggest obstacle is convincing them that living healthy is not as hard they may think. It’s not hard to drink more water, limit sugar and sweeteners, eat more raw or steamed veggies… and put the fork down. Reasonable portions and a little activity is a great start to improving health.
I try to lead by example and give ideas to some. Some just need a motivating force or someone to be responsible to. Others, for one reason or the other, are not receptive. That’s okay, too… so long as the patient understands that he/she is the only one responsible for the consequences.
6. Many of our visitors don't have gym memberships and don't have access to exercise equipment. Can you suggest any exercises that they can do at home to strengthen their back and protect against back pain?
You bet! Strengthening the back and protecting against back pain starts with stabilizing the abdominal core muscles. Anyone can do a daily range-of-motion stretch in the lower back and torso.
Add in abdominal planks to strengthen abs without aggravating the lower back like crunches sometimes do. Leg raises (front, back, and to side). You’d be amazed at how beneficial a good walk is for the back and core. An exercise ball ($18-20) makes for a cheap item that can incorporate and facilitate a ton of exercises.
In the absence of even an exercise ball, look around and be creative. Fill a gallon milk jug with water and you’ve got a six pound dumbbell. You’ve probably got a ton of things in your kitchen that will tell you right on the package how much it weighs. You don’t need memberships or home gyms to get exercise… you just need motivation and to quit making excuses.
7. I read on your website that you have four daughters and that you are active in coaching and sponsoring their sports teams and other activities. It is very admirable that you find time in your busy schedule to be involved in their lives, and I am sure it is very rewarding as well.
What kind of advice do you have for your daughters and other young people, about protecting and caring for their backs now, to prevent back pain and other problems as they grow into their 30's and 40's and beyond? (And, how do you get them to listen?)
The old adage of “an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure,” is one of the most basic truths that too many of us forget to respect. Whether it’s my daughters, my patients, my neighbors, or anyone else, the only way to encourage prevention and healthy choices is to increase and enforce personal accountability.
Regardless of whether it is related to school, health, sports, work, etc., my girls know and understand that they are in control of and determine their own destiny. I can guide, teach, show, and assist as much as I can, but it’s up to them determine their outcome. Actions lead to consequences… good or bad… period.
The same applies to health care. Unfortunately, our society has become too politically correct, and too often refuses to place blame where it belongs. It’s become “uncouth” to tell someone that 90% of their back pain is because they’re 50 pounds overweight. It’s “not cool” to tell someone their “depression” is because they won’t get off their ass and go outside.
You want to improve health care in this country? Put the patient back in the equation. The patient should be in control, and should be responsible for all aspects of their personal health care choices. Once that happens, patients will take ownership of their bodies again.
They will consider how Choice A vs. Choice B is going to affect their health, their pocketbook, and their reputation. My advice to young people is to take responsibility now for the consequences of your actions. Start thinking about what you want to do and where you want to be in ten years. Twenty years. Then take the actions that will get you there. Quit waiting on someone else to make the decision for you because they won’t be there when it’s time to pay the toll.
As for getting them to listen… if you ever figure out how to get a teenager to listen, please let me know!!!
We want to thank Dr. Gray for taking the time to share his knowledge and expertise with us. As always with Dr. Gray, the cuts through the fog, and puts the truth right in front of you. How refreshing.
You can get more straight talk from Dr. Gray by visiting him at Gray Chiropractic in Independence, MO., and reading his blog posts. Also, don't forget to keep an eye on his website for the new online nutrition evaluation that he is developing.