Chiropractic therapy grew famous for its pop and crack method, but is it all there is? In this episode, Blair Upper Cervical Care specialist Dr. Mychal Beebe goes a step higher into upper cervical excellence and discusses the non-manipulative upper cervical alignment of the head complemented with an integrative care plan. Dr. Beebe also addresses the importance of clarity of communication between patients, chiropractors, and medical doctors in the pursuit of better health solutions. Appreciate how chiropractic is a piece of the pie and not the magic wand that does it all. Learn the latest technology in 3D imaging that helps chiropractors see everything at the head and neck junction. Discover the amazing ways your body works and how a gentle approach to chiropractic therapy serves you.
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Upper Cervical Excellence With Dr. Mychal Beebe
We have Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor of the Year, Dr. Mychal Beebe. Dr. Beebe and her husband, Dr. Evans, have a thriving upper cervical clinic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. On the show, Dr. Beebe shares how she got into upper cervical chiropractic, how she is able to work with the top medical professionals in many different fields using the Blair Upper Cervical technique, how important it is to get the message of upper cervical chiropractic out to the world and all of the amazing patients she is able to help in her private practice in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Please welcome, Dr. Mychal Beebe. Dr. Mychal, how are you?
Dr. Pecca, I’m fantastic. I’m excited to be able to have a conversation with you.
I’m very excited. Dr. Beebe, where are you from originally?
Originally, I’m from Connecticut, which is in New England. For those who are across the country, New England is a pretty condensed area. You can drive for about 2 to 3 hours and cross 2 to 3 states. I did live on the West Coast for about ten years. You drive for 2 to 3 hours here in the same state.
How did you like living on the West Coast?
West Coast was great. I grew up in New England and then moved out to California to go to chiropractic school. I went to Life Chiropractic College West in the Bay Area in San Francisco. I was there for five years. I went up to Seattle, Washington where I associated with another chiropractor named Michael Lenarz and opened a practice with him in Downtown Seattle. I lived in Seattle, Washington for five years. It got to be the time to move back closer to family. My husband also is another upper cervical chiropractor, Dr. Tyler Evans. He was practicing in a different practice in Seattle, Washington. We decided to transition those practices to other providers in Washington. We picked up and moved across the country and opened a practice together here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on the sea coast.
Dr. Beebe, what has made you gravitate towards upper cervical chiropractic? Because is it a specialty in the field. Were you always under care growing up as a kid? Was it something you found later in life?
I began school thinking I was going to be a veterinarian. I love riding horses and animals have always been a big part of my world. I have a German Shepherd right now named Teton because he loves to hike. He has been to the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. I do have a horse as well. I realized I didn’t want to do what I’d always done for fun, my job. I started to think about being a human doctor. I did a course on pre-med. I did some rounds at the local hospital and also interned in some private practices. Unfortunately, I was disillusioned by how once the doctors had a diagnosis for the patient, there was this acceptable flow chart of procedures that they could do for that patient. It was dictated by the insurance company.
I was seeing these wonderful and caring doctors be hamstrung by the system that they were working in. It didn’t seem to sit right with me. At an alumni weekend in my senior year of college, I met a chiropractor. We were chatting and he was super passionate about his life and his work. I hadn’t been adjusted or hadn’t worked with a chiropractor at all before. I knew my mom had gone to one and he’d gotten a lot of great results. I took a year off after undergrad and I worked in a chiropractic office. I saw the day-in and day-out and I was like, “This is an opportunity where I can treat the entire public, kids to geriatrics. I can help a person’s whole body, not just focus on one little piece and because I have the diagnosis code for that one little piece, only do the thing that’s going to help that one little piece.”
I thought the chiropractic would be a great solution. I looked more into it. I researched the schools and then ended up going to Life West. I never had been adjusted before deciding that I wanted to start to go into chiropractic. The office that I worked in was a full spine chiropractic office and that’s what most chiropractors out there do. I’m sure you’ve probably talked about where there’s more manual manipulative care or adjusting all the way up and down the spine where you feel a crack or a pop when you get adjusted and you walk out. One of the things that struck me was how frequently people were going into the office and getting a similar thing done each time.
I was thinking, “I wish that there was a technique within chiropractic that might help the person hold their adjustments longer.” It’s to have an ability to say, “Yes, this problem is related to that spinal misalignment, which is affecting the nerves,” “No, this is more muscle tension,” “This is a problem in the ankle and your gait,” “This is a problem with your eyes and you need to change your glasses and not necessarily needing the adjustments.” I found the upper cervical care. The upper cervical care is rebalancing the spine from the top-down, giving primary importance to that head and neck connection because the head to neck connection is the most freely mobile area of the spine. When that’s misaligned, it short circuits the brain-body communication from a nerve standpoint. It affects the entire structure on the way down where the body is in a compensation pattern from the top-down.
When people are coming in, I’m checking them to see if they need to be adjusted or if they’re holding their adjustment. If they’re holding their adjustment, that’s fantastic because we’ve checked that box. We’ve made sure that the central nervous system is clear and the spinal structure from the top-down is balanced. If they’re still having problems, then I can say, “Who else can I add to this person’s care to help their body fully recovered?” whether that is a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a medical consult or an optometrist. That’s allowed us to have an integrative care plan, our care approach with our office, which I think is what people are looking for.
Dr. Beebe, how do you bridge the gap between your patients, yourself and other medical practitioners? Because some people think that medical doctors hate chiropractic? They don’t want to work with it. They don’t want their patients getting adjusted. That’s simply not the case. Us, as chiropractors have to do a better job of communicating the message. Once you effectively communicate that message, there are a lot of MDs that are open to sending you referrals because of the great work that we do. How do you bridge that gap between yourself and other medical practitioners to get them to understand what we do as upper cervical chiropractors?
I think that you hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of great doctors out there that are looking for ways to help their patients. I’m going to address this in two ways. First, if you’re a patient looking for health solutions and you’re interested in chiropractic care, there’s a lot of resources out there. You can go to ICAUpperCervical.com, which is the upper cervical website. You could go to BlairChiropractic.com and look at upper cervical chiropractic care. Inform yourself so that when you’re talking to your medical doctor, you can maybe say, “There’s a technique or a type of chiropractic which is non-manipulative.” It means we’re not going to be taking the head to its full range of motion and adding thrust and creating a prop or a crack. It’s very gentle. You’re in a neutral position.
With that specificity and that gentleness, we can effect great changes. Things like headaches, head and neck injury, concussion, radiculopathy or numbness and tingling down the arm, dizziness, vestibular issues, vertigo, migraine, neck pain, mid back pain and lower back pain. Those things are definitely in our wheelhouse as well as helping the body function better by making sure those nerves from the brain can communicate with the rest of the body. That’s where we’re coming from the standpoint of communicating with patients and having those patients advocate for themselves to their medical providers. You said another great thing, chiropractors have not done a great job explaining what we do to the public in general and I think to the medical community, it is our responsibility to get the word out there, which is why I love that you do this show because it’s a part of the piece of the puzzle to get the word out there. To the people who are reading this, you can also share this with your friends.
You can share this with your family. You can educate yourself more because there are so many nuances to care. You find a practitioner that you have a good feeling with and that explains things correctly for you. They’re out there. You have to find them. There are a few rotten apples in every profession, but we’re talking about the majority of people. The majority of providers are good providers that are trying to help their patients. That is both sides of the coin. There are excellent medical doctors, physiatrists or physician assistants, occupational therapists that are trying to help their patients. They just don’t know that upper cervical chiropractic care is an option or it could be beneficial. There are chiropractors that are trying to help their patients and they might not know how to communicate to the medical profession in a way that is easily understood.
I think we are starting to bridge that gap. It wasn’t too long ago that the American Medical Association settled an antitrust lawsuit. It was called the Wilk versus the AMA. It was settled in 1987, which is not that long ago. It was an antitrust lawsuit against the AMA brought by the chiropractic profession because the AMA did have a committee that was solely for the purpose of defaming chiropractors because we were stealing a market share of neck pain and back pain. That was in 1987. That was a few years ago, not that long ago. The conversation is starting to evolve because now that that’s less a part of the medical lexicon, doctors who are coming out of school, medical doctors or physician’s assistants are starting to understand that chiropractic is a vital piece in the healthcare pie.
It’s about explaining what we do and then finding people who are interested in helping their patients get better faster because nobody has a magic wand. No practitioner is going to have the single thing that takes all the problems away typically, especially with the more complex cases. We want to make sure as upper cervical chiropractors that the alignment of the head and neck is dialed in so that that central nervous system can fire as it should and the body alignment is good from the top-down. That’s a piece of the pie that we can take care of. That helps with a lot of symptoms like headaches, neck pain, head and neck injury, mid back pain, lower back pain, radiculopathy. That can be life-changing for a lot of people.
Dr. Beebe, you work with a couple of amazing healthcare professionals. At what point do you send a patient that hasn’t been to anybody else but you yet? If you got a new patient in and you start talking, “I’m going to send you to this person real quick,” it starts to get a little overwhelming and they’re like, “I came to see you first.” At what point do you refer out? What kind of places do you refer out to get that patient better to get their puzzle figured out?
There’s a pretty logical, scientific aspect of who I am. I like to change one variable at a time. If we’re going to start something new, say we decided to start upper cervical chiropractic care, I want to give that at least eight weeks before we start to change something else. A lot of the providers that I work with, they’re booking a handful of weeks out. I may talk with our patients at the 4 or 5-week point if things aren’t resolved or I think there’s another piece of the pie that needs to be taken care of. I would say I’d hold off for treatment until about eight weeks after we started upper cervical care, then we add one thing at a time.
Chiropractic works with the nerves and the bones and then you might want to layer on physical therapy to help with the muscles in the movement systems. You might want to say, “Have we changed your glasses prescription? Maybe the lens or the prism needs to be changed to help the eyes feed better sensory information into the brain.” 70% of the sensory information coming into the brain comes from the eyes. It’s a huge piece of the pie when we’re talking about headaches, concussion, head and neck injury, or whiplash. If it’s somebody’s soft tissue, the fascia is really bound up from chronicled injury, then I might want to have physical therapy work on them or even some dry needling. That can be a big piece of the pie where I don’t necessarily have the time to spend an hour working on the soft tissue in my office, but I know an expert that is excellent at that.
How did you and Dr. Tyler set yourself apart in your community to be the primary head and neck professionals in your area? Everybody knows you guys as the head and neck specialist. How were you guys able to do that?
It’s about communicating clearly. We talked about where chiropractors haven’t necessarily done a great job of communicating what we do. That’s on us. We’re starting to change that conversation. It’s a reality because I think there are some chiropractors that say, “Get adjusted and it will heal everything. You should never do anything that’s not natural.” That’s not necessarily true. I don’t handle my own health like that.
I’m sure results speak for themselves too. You guys get great results and it starts to spread the word of mouth that that’s how you’re helping people too.
The results are the most important thing. I think clarity of communication, saying, “We do headaches, neck pain and head and neck injury.” We have the technology in our office that is a little bit more advanced than what a lot of offices might have access to right now because it’s a little bit newer. It’s something called CBCT or Cone-Beam CT, which is a dental technology that chiropractors are starting to use to look at the head and neck junction. That gives us a 3D image of the head and neck, which allows us to know everything about the joints before we ever adjust with very low dose radiation. We’re able to do that imaging and we communicate clearly. We do that non-manipulative technique that’s very gentle. It’s very effective. People are seeing good changes in their life. They’re telling professionals that referred them in that they’ve gotten good changes. They’re telling their family and their friends.
One thing you touched on earlier that some people might not know of upper cervical is we say holding is healing. Our goal is to give you that one adjustment and have it hold weeks to months to years, which it can. What is holding your adjustment actually mean?
Holding the adjustment from my perspective means that the biomechanics of the joint has good integrity and it’s not interfering with the central nervous system. That is holding the adjustment. How I test that in my office is I use a scanner called infrared thermography, which is measuring temperature on the pair of spinal muscles. If you have even nerve firing, you’re going to have more even temperature right to left. We look at a snapshot of that nervous system. I look at body balance lying down. We go through a range of emotion and we do muscle reflex testing. If all of those tests are clear, meaning I don’t get any positive findings, then the upper cervical spine is holding its alignment. The upper cervical spine has good biomechanics. The neurology there is not affected. It’s firing evenly right to left. We’ve got to leave it alone because if it’s not broke, we don’t want to fix it.
Can a patient be symptomatic while they’re holding their adjustment?
Absolutely. That plays into the fact that there is no magic wand. Number one, if it’s relatively early in the care symptoms can be up and down. Oftentimes people that come into our office have been struggling for months or years. If it’s been a couple of weeks, symptoms will still be there. Healing does take time. I share with my patients that when we’re working with the spine, we’ve got bones, tendons, muscles, nerves and ligaments. All of those different tissues have different healing times. In tendons and ligaments, which are the stabilization structures and have the least amount of blood supply, they take the longest to heal. The neurology of the body has to essentially rewire. That rewiring process takes a long time. If it’s a beginning part of the care, symptoms can still be up and down. As the patient is further along and care and more stable, there’s a lot of general life activities that can be affected.
If the upper cervical spine is stable, but they’ve taken a seven-hour car ride to New York City, and sat in traffic, their lower back will be aching or cramping. If they are struggling with post-concussion and they’ve just gone to a movie with lots of flashing lights, visual stimulus or sound stimuli, it might have overwhelmed the brain’s energy reserves and that can still create headaches or vestibular issues. There’s a lot of factors outside of the chiropractic alignment that can affect how the body feels. That’s where you have to have the chiropractor as the expert to determine if there’s a misalignment there. If there’s altered biomechanics of the joint, I’ll do joint motion if that’s affecting the nerves. If it is, we got to get that corrected because it’s going to help the body recover. It’s going to help the body heal. If there’s not, then it’s saying, “Let’s talk about some lifestyle management. Maybe here’s another type of care that we could adjunctively work with.”
We, maybe a couple of others, there’s not too many people doing the upper cervical work on East Coast especially. Why do you think that is? How do we think we get more practitioners on the East Coast? We have people driving from way too far away to come see us that need some upper circle doctors in their range of driving because people come from very far away. How do you think we get more practitioners doing upper cervical?
Honestly, I think that the best way is to help other chiropractors and patients realize how amazing the body is, how you don’t have to be manually manipulating all the way up and down the spine once a week for a long extended period of time to see these changes and results. I had a patient come in who was a referral from a pain management doctor. She had failed multiple cervical injections, lumbar injections, cortisone injections, radiofrequency ablation in her lower back as well as in her neck. She has chronic headaches, chronic neck pain, pain, tingling and numbness down the right arm and down the right leg and chronic lower back pain. This lady is brilliant. She’s getting her PhD in astrophysics. She’s at the local university in New Hampshire. She’s doing the best she can to manage, but it took her a long time to find this office. We started getting her adjusted with the Blair Upper Cervical Technique from the top-down.
She’s been able to have her lower back pain 80% improved. She’s no longer getting radiculopathy down the leg. She’s able to fall asleep at night with much less pain. We had our eight-week exam. We’re still working on the radiculopathy down the arm. It’s one of the things that are taking the longest. Her headaches are improved. Her neck pain is improved. Her lower back pain is much improved. That’s in eight-weeks. She hasn’t needed many upper cervical adjustments. We’ve adjusted her about five times in that eight-weeks, although I’ve checked her in the office about twelve times. I’m thinking about having a referral to a neurologist to do a needle EMG study on that right arm. I haven’t decided if we’re going to go that route yet. I think it’s about sharing the results with people about how you can do less and get more changes in the body with a more gentle approach. In terms of chiropractors, I would say that take the time to hone the craft because as with any medical practice, there’s a science to it. We’ve got to look at what the research says, what our clinical experience says, what the patient wants. That’s all part of the science. We’ve got a look at the philosophy to it.
With chiropractic, it’s about the body’s innate healing capability. We’ve got the piece of the pie that is the art. Upper cervical work is an art to manage a patient, to know when to adjust, and to know when not to adjust, when it is not due to that spinal misalignment. You got to leave it alone. When you do leave it alone, the patient is going to get better stability with less adjusting over the long term. That’s going to get them better results. For the chiropractors, I would say learning that art is the most important thing and so finding mentors, whether that mentor is somebody you worked directly with or maybe you coach with them for a while, have some phone calls, share imaging once a week. With the digital age, we can email an image pretty quickly, email a case history pretty quickly and get some opinions. I know that you, myself, my husband, we’re open to talking with other doctors to try to help them on this path. In terms of patients, I do feel bad because we do have patients who drive 4 to 5 hours one way to get a checkup and that’s unfortunate.
Dr. Beebe, where are you located and where can people find you guys in New Hampshire, all your social media and website information?
We are in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is about 45 minutes north of Boston. Our website is www.AreteChiro.com. We are on Instagram @AreteUC. We are on Facebook at AreteUC as well. We’ve got lots of information out there on our website as well as on YouTube. My husband does an amazing upper cervical research moment where he reviewed the research paper and as it pertains to that upper neck on YouTube. It’s Arete Chiropractic on YouTube. You could look that up as well. People are always welcome to reach out to us. If we’re the closest upper cervical office, we’d be happy to work with you. If we think we can find somebody closer to you, we can also get to that resource as well.
Dr. Beebe, I like to ask all my guests what is one piece of advice that has resonated with you over the years that you would like a gift to the audience? It could be absolutely anything.
I’m a person that at my core truly believes that people get out of something what they put into it. Whether that is as a patient, you’re investing in care. If you’ve been struggling with chronic symptoms for years or even months and you think you’re going to go someplace and see somebody for 6 to 8 visits and get a lot out of it, maybe that happens. There are miracle cases, but I don’t know if that’s going to be a long-term solution. As a chiropractor, the path of least resistance is the one that’s easiest. It isn’t always the one that’s correct.
If it takes longer to explain to a patient, “I’m going to tickle you behind the ear. You’re going to be in a neutral position. You’re barely going to feel anything,” when the patient’s expecting a big pop or a crack, that’s going to take a little bit more education of yourself and of the patient. If you spend time to learn how to communicate that, spend time to learn how to analyze the imaging and how to take care of the patient in that way, you can get phenomenal results. What you put into something is exactly what you’re going to get out of it. The one really does fall to personal responsibility and not as something that I live my life by.
Dr. Beebe, thank you so much for coming on. I really love this episode. I’d love to have you back at any time.
Thanks so much, Kevin. It’s been so much fun talking with you.
Thank you so much.
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