Introducing Dr. Zachary Ward

CRegal Editor
  • I would like to take a minute to introduce our newest contributor, Dr. Zachary Ward.  I had the opportunity to conduct a short interview with Dr. Ward to help introduce him to the community.  Please join me in welcoming him to MultipleSclerosisCentral.


    What is your background? What is your expertise?


    I am a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic. I originally got involved with chiropractic after my parents took my brother to a chiropractor due to some extraordinary "growing pains." He kept my parents up all night crying in pain, and our pediatrician didn't know what to do with him. He was tested for Lyme disease and some other autoimmune disease and tested negative. Finally a family friend recommended chiropractic care. At the same time, I was having some issues related to running and I started receiving chiropractic adjustments to help my performance. This sparked my interest in the field, and years later, I decided to go back to school, after getting an unrelated degree, to get a degree in chiropractic. I graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in February 2009.

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    What conditions are you involved with?  How did you get involved with MS patients?


    When you look at demographics of those who go to a chiropractor, it's usually those with back pain, headaches, neck pain, knee and shoulder problems. The majority of patients will go looking for help with some kind of musculoskeletal pain. They will receive traditional chiropractic adjustments, which are short, dynamic, and usually painless thrust into problem areas of the spine. Some chiropractors also use physical therapy modalities like electric stimulation.


    There are several studies that say, in your average musculoskeletal-based chiropractic practice, anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of patients will note improvement in some other aspect of their life, like improved sleeping, digestion, balance, and concentration.


    Then there are a smaller amount of chiropractic practices that attract more than just back and neck pain patients. These practices emphasize the recuperative power of the body under chiropractic care. They may be using a different protocol in caring for the spine than the traditional chiropractic adjusting maneuvers.


    I have a practice like this, where we focus on the delicate balance in the spine between the head and neck, and the role of hidden injury to the neck in the later development of disease.


    From what I had seen clinically and because of my approach, I end up seeing folks with complex pain syndromes and neurodegenerative diseases. I see people with migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, MS, and attention-deficit issues. Of course, I also see people with neck pain and back pain, and no pain at all, and I'm happy to do so.


    I want to be able to help people in ways that will improve quality of life across the board.


    What is your goal with treatments?  How do you ensure that you achieve that goal?


    There are my goals and there are the patients' goals. Obviously, if the pain doesn't go away, a patient won't necessarily have the patience to give our approach time to work. And true body healing comes from within, and takes time.  From a primary perspective, I am here to change the structure of the body, not necessarily treat symptoms. If I have a Migraine patient and then an MS patient, the "treatment" is the same - an attempt to correct an old injury in the head-to-neck balance.


    When I deal with Migraines, I can remove the source of a potential irritation rather than change the chemistry.  When I work with MS, I try to take similar action.  I want to improve the quality of life.


    Where do you practice?


    I practice in southeast Michigan. I studied under a mentor initially in Iowa, but then relocated to the Detroit suburbs.


    Do you work with any chronic pain conditions, such as TMJ, Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?


    I actually work a lot with people who have these conditions. I see the person, not the condition. I think there is an important distinction there.

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    You know, there's a host of things that are related to the upper cervical spine, and when you start looking at all of them, there are two responses: first, "This is amazing and why haven't I heard this before!?" or that this is all quackery, and you're just making this up. (You can find all kinds of Internet experts who will tell you one way or another, who have never set foot inside of a chiropractic practice that does what we do.)


    For issues of "fibro-fog," TMJ or Migraine, these are all related to the upper cervical spine, in many cases.


    The traditional progression of someone who really needs upper cervical care might look something like this: It starts with the young girl who has a difficult birth. She is a colicky baby, but grows out of it. Her parents think nothing of it. She experiences a relatively uneventful childhood. At 8 she experiences a minor neck or head trauma, let's say a whiplash injury. Again, she seems fine, so her parents think nothing of it. Six months later she develops minor headaches on a weekly basis, and by the time she reaches menarche, she has Migraines, and extraordinary menstrual pain during her cycle. She gets treated pharmaceutically. In her late teens she begins being treated for depression. By the time she is 30, perhaps after the birth of a child, she experiences prolonged fatigue and discreet muscle pains, and she is diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after bouncing back from one provider to the next for a year more.


    Migraines, menstrual problems, brain-fog, fatigue, fibromyalgia.  All of them are seemingly unrelated problems.  Yet, clinically we have seen all of them resolve when we go back and finally deal with the injury that happened when she was a child.


    I think we're really on the cusp of a new awareness based on a new ability to explain what is happening in the relationship of upper cervical health to total well-being. This work has been going on for decades, but we have never had the means to study the almost microscopic changes in blood flow in the upper neck and lower brain with upper cervical chiropractic care. With phase-contrast micro-angiography we are beginning to see how even a slight shift in the balance between the head and the neck can dynamically change blood drainage around the brain stem, which is an area critical to our health, including our emotions, and pain modulation.


  • We have recently had a number of questions relating to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy on our Chronic Pain pages.  Have you worked with the condition at all?

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    I had one patient that springs to mind. Her RSD came after surgical complications after a cervical fusion. She was the most verifiable case of RSD that we saw; we saw instantaneous changes in the skin when she experienced an "attack." In her case, her limb just turned purple, skin prickled, and she was in a lot of pain.


    Getting people to acknowledge that something is actually going on in RSD - this is the big step. 


    On an MS-related note, you spoke of relieving tension in the neck and upper cervical spine area.  There is a controversial treatment proposed where alleviating this tension in the spine could act as a cure for MS.  However, CCSVI, as it is known, is currently illegal in the United States.  Are you a proponent of this procedure?


    I don't know if I am for it or against it, necessarily, but if I am not seeing an emergency situation, if I am talking about a chronic issue, it makes sense to go through a scale of options.  We should start with the least invasive procedures moving towards most extreme invasive options. CCSVI is very new, so we don't know the long-term side effects, but I'd rather see the person in my office first before contemplating a surgical procedure. After all, we believe we are seeing resolution in chronic cerobrospinal venous insufficiency when we use a gentle, and extremely specific upper cervical chiropractic adjustment.


    Please welcome Dr. Ward to the community!  He will be available for questions in the Q&A section and will be writing SharePosts in his fields of expertise.




Published On: June 24, 2011