Dr. Andy Petersen Talks

Appendix I

Excerpts from a 1980 Palmer Beacon interview with Dr. Andy Petersen, inventor of the Synchro-Therme and author of the main text of Segmental Neuropathy.

The Beacon, July-August 1980

(Andrew Runge Petersen, PSC ’47)

Petersen: In 1953 I came out of practicing in the field and got heavily involved in instrumentation research. I started Blackhawk Instruments, the first company to ever compete with Palmer and its NCM monopoly. B.J. would’ve killed anyone else doing what I did. I started to look at the suppositions under which the NCM is used and at the instrument itself. I didn’t even know the significance of what I had discovered for a year. But when we discovered the vertical heat differences and had established a controversy between B.J.’s ‘hot nerve’ and alteration of blood flow rate to the skin, we didn’t believe it. We were good Palmer chiropractors. We believed in the hot nerve. We kept digging till, in 1958 we had enough to present to B.J. – the obsolescence of the NCM, in that it was unable to monitor vasodilatative changes vertically as opposed to horizontal thus the vertical changes did not register, and to introduce the reality of the cold areas of sympathetic aberration in neuropathy as opposed to the ridiculous ‘hot nerve’ concept. Anyhow, there I was lecturing on and on to B.J., Herb Hender, Ralph Evans, and Otto Schermbeck. When I’m through B.J. looks at Otto, who was head of Research and Instrumentation and who has been pondering my material for days, and B.J. asks, ‘Well, is he right?’ Otto said somberly, ‘Yes, B.J., he is.’ B.J. thinks for a minute then says, ‘Well, as long as I’m alive it stays hot.’ I looked around the room while B.J. walks out, wondering what just happened. Everybody is looking at me and shaking their heads. ‘Andy, you lost,’ they said. And that’s all there was to it. No matter what the reality of the situation dictated, at B.J.’s word another reality was dictated.

The research data I was putting together in those years is what put me opposite the fence to B.J. and chiropractic. Around 1934 Speransky was doing profound research in Russia. By the 1940s he was the biggest thing around in neurophysiology. ‘Segmental neuropathy’ is Speransky’s term. Speransky did the famous experiment with the administration of toxic doses of cyanide to a dog under deep anesthesia. Because the dog’s nervous system was unresponsive to the cyanide, no reaction occurred with it and within hours it was secreted from the salivary glands, and the dog awoke unharmed. Speransky found, however, that if the animal awoke from anesthesia before all the toxin was secreted, the animal died within seconds. People today still think the body takes weeks to respond on an immunological level to foreign entities. Speransky showed this to be totally erroneous. The body responds virtually immediately. He carefully surgically separated all of a rabbit’s ear from the body except by one sensory nerve fiber. He then introduced a foreign culture to an abrasion on the distal portion of the ear then promptly severed the one sensory nerve. Speransky did blood and tissue cultures on the rabbit and discovered that even a momentary signal to the CNS alerting it to foreign invasion was enough to make an immediate response in the immunological systems. How is that for chiropractic advertisement?

In the mid 1940s Palmer campus was alive with the idea that Speransky had provided evidence to show the subluxation was real. Chiropractic had a scientific basis, and if Speransky had known of the subluxation he could have plugged it into his equation and completed his knowledge of neurofunction. But when I read Speransky, I found people must not have been paying attention. Speransky verified conclusions of my own concerning the unlikely existence of ‘subluxation,’ the static concept of ‘stepping on a hose.’ As I suspected, Speransky’s extrapolations leave no room for such nonsense. Not that there isn’t a chiropractic, not that there isn’t a rationale for looking first to the nervous system in order to combat disease, … We don’t fully understand the incredible sensitivity and dynamism of the nervous system… Speransky points out that the neuropathy, once established, is not a biomechanic stress but is an aberrant process of nerve function that is independent of its first cause. … The neuropathy, Speransky proves, becomes a separate, abnormal intelligence. It moves throughout the system. It expands. It assumes a functional process of disease all its own. Can you see why chiropractors who play with their miniaturized packages of cracking bones are so hateful to me? Without sensitive controls to monitor the responses of the nervous system to your work, you are playing with fire in that every adjustment you make can very possibly instigate another neuropathy into a system that is already under neuropathic stress. . . .

Beacon: What do you do that is different from orthodox chiropractic?

Petersen: “Orthodox chiropractic is the process of finding and removing encroachments on the peripheral nerves as they exit from the spine. Orthodoxy has misinterpreted these subluxations as the cause of disease. I know that the mechanism is a neuropathic mechanism and that it is far more complex than a trophic or a biomechanic explanation by themselves, although it involves both. The neuropathy can be thought of as an untuned string on a harp, so that all tones, or signals, from that one string cause a disruption in the music of the entire instrument. Speransky has shown that the neuropathy is the neuron(s) in the irritated state, and involves a cortical component. In other words, a neuropathy can be effectively extinguished through hypnosis. Furthermore, and this is why I am so antagonistic to contemporary chiropractic, Speransky showed that the neuropathic process can retreat into the nervous system and later surface in a more complex and more difficult to combat disease symptomatology profile. I have tried to make the people who move the chiropractic profession understand that by attacking the central nervous system by manual manipulation of the spine, without advanced instruments to monitor the reaction of the neuropathy, you run the risk of greatly endangering the public.”

Beacon: How does one monitor the neuropathic responses?

Petersen: “I use the instruments I invented. I used the Synchrotherm before I was taken to court to be told it was too advanced for me. Now I know to keep my mouth shut about my instruments. But what happened with the Synchrotherm was OK – I use a more sensitive instrumentation now. I use liquid crystals. …

When I work on a patient to check them out vasomotor-wise, I lay them prone with the (liquid crystal) strips on their back, and I intrude into the nervous system until I have an even skin temperature pattern. It may take hours or years, but I know that the neuropathy is extinguished. Others might think they are doing the same thing I am, but they’re not: Their instrumentation is dangerously crude, it cannot tell them what they need to know; and their static conception of the nervous system and the human body is so far afield it’s beyond the capability of your article to explain.

Beacon: What do you mean when you say “intrude “ on the nervous system?

Petersen: “I perform an action to cause a change in the afferent system. To extinguish a neuropathy you have to attack it on the same level it began – on the level of neurofunction. The body knows how its own spine is to be configured. A spine becomes biomechanically stressed after a neuropathic process distorts the body’s perception of itself. This is why all chiropractic techniques work to some degree or another, sometimes they wipe out the neuropathy. But because they are intruding in the dark, so to speak, they are getting far less good results than they claim, and they are oftentimes causing dangerous complexity in the system.

Beacon: What techniques do you intrude with?

Petersen: Toggle and Logan Basic, primarily. Toggle is powerful by nature of the mechanism of the adjustment itself, sharp and fast, directed at the brain stem. And I intrude with Logan because putting your thumb where you do, you command the nervous system’s entire conscious-autonomic attention. I shock my lecture students when I make them understand that an intrusion does not remove osseous pressure on a nerve, or the traction of meninges on the cord. By intruding you are hoping to wipe the slate clean in the sense of neurodisfunction. And hope is all your adjustment will ever amount to unless you have a means of watching the nervous system on a functional basis. If you can’t monitor moment to moment changes as you work, chiropractic is a dangerous roulette game with the nervous system. That’s why B.J. knew long ago that you can push people down some stairs, or knock them in the rear with a shovel and get yourself a sizeable percentage of check-outs. My segmental neuropathy system of chiropractic is more complex than others. But it’s real. If my kids are worried about money when they start a practice, they accept less patients and charge more for their time. That way they can do what I asked of them in the beginning – “Think.”

Beacon: What’s ahead for you?

Petersen: Computerization. Chrononeurology. Keeping track of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that play a role in health so that we can predict the point in time when our intrusion will cause the most change to our patient. To understand what I just told you, to let you know how possible it is, I’ve got to tell you about Prof. Franz Halberg. Halberg is the first word, the only word, in studying the role of time in relation to disease. He coined the term Chronobiology, which in his words is, “defining health in terms of predictable, rhythmic biologic variations of physiologic function in many frequency ranges with interval time relations and relations to external synchronizers, modulators, and influencers.”

Halberg is working on huge NIH grants. He links a patient to a computer which scans and records every system in your body you can think of, so Halberg can then predict the proper minute to administer a drug. I know Halberg personally. My kids go up and work with him in return for being hooked to one of his computers, and I want to do the same thing with chiropractic. I want to know the moment of a patient’s biorhythmic pattern wherein he will respond optimally to my intrusion.

Chronobiology gives orthodox medicine a devastating blow. Halberg’s results are staggering and you and I, as chiropractors, are not immune. Look, a segment of the medical profession has long known of the benefits of crude manipulation. Yet the common mind of that profession is unconvinced and is still looking for answers. Chronobiology is the stone they’ve last overturned. We should be hip-deep in our own chrononeurology. For me that’s what lies ahead.

Beacon: What does Halberg mean by “external modulators, synchronizers, and influencers?”

Petersen: Everything outside your body which causes change in you. (He laughs) You name it, Halberg is tracing cycles of it with his computers. Cosmic rays, pollution indexes, everything he can record chronologic data on makes his next point-time calculation all the more accurate. Halberg monitored cancer in rats: Chronotherapy for cancer is now documented in three experiments with rodent models: leukemia, immunocarcinoma, and mamillary carcinoma. An administration schedule replacing a homeostatic equal-dose schedule can double the cure rate, in much less toxic dose ranges of Platinum and Adriomyosin, which killed 25% of nontumorous controls. The scheduled administration led to 25% up to 65% complete remission in the study group depending on treatment timing.

As far as chiropractic and all other health arts are concerned, research findings like this nails the coffin lid shut on dogmatism. Chiropractors who perceive the spine as a static, fixed element will be made obsolete as this research expands. Do you want to keep believing the world has four corners? The human body and its nervous system are too complex for the games we are playing now. Do you want people to laugh at how stupid you were after you die? How, then, do we deal with the future? Chiropractic has been somewhat successful as a healing art because at one time it was a great step forward. But we haven’t done anything significant since the day D.D. adjusted Harvey Lillard. …

Beacon: Tell about losing the Synchrotherm in court.

Petersen: The FDA brought me up on charges that I claimed the Synchrotherm measured skin temperature which I could relate to health. I made my preparations for the case, assembling and paraphrasing my work, making calls to various organizations and colleges in the profession asking for help in the case. I told them it was more than just the Synchrotherm on the line, and that they’d better help me hustle for the sake of the profession. Well, I got a staggering number of promises. But as my day in court drew close, one by one I could feel my old friends losing their nerve. I went to court by myself – no help from ICA or Palmer College or anyone else.

I told the court about the Synchrotherm’s development and related it to Speransky and segmental neuropathy; I gave them everything I could to show that segmental neuropathy worked. The final day I spent in the judge’s chambers with the judge and the then Director of FDA. The FDA guy was cursing chiropractic to hell. He said he thought chiropractors were a menace to the AMA not because we were a scientific disease but because we were a social disease. He yelled at me, “You chiropractors are worse than n****s!” And that’s not my semantics. That’s a direct quote. The judge had to cut the guy off and get him out. He said afterward, “If I were you, I’d sue him for what he said. You have grounds. But I can’t let that have any bearing on this case.” And the decision went against me. I taped that discussion in the chambers with the FDA guy with a recorder in a briefcase, and when he found out, at first he wanted to kill me, then he begged and begged me to destroy it.

Beacon: Did you?

Petersen: No way. The judge decided that because the medical profession recognized the correlation between sympathetic vasomotor control and the disease state, and because the Synchrotherm measured skin temperature so effectively, the Synchrotherm was a medical instrument and ruled too sophisticated for chiropractic use. That was 1968. And unless you’re an M.D., even today you’ll not be able to get your hands on a Synchrotherm.