Dr. L. John Faye graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in 1960, having completed both chiropractic and naturopathic undergraduate courses. He has practiced as a chiropractor ever since. The first fourteen years, he was in Southampton, England, and then returned to Canada for ten years.
After nine years in Canada, Dr. Faye was the first chiropractor ever appointed by the Canadian government to accompany the 1984 Canadian Track and Field Olympic team to Los Angeles. This six-week assignment led to the whole Faye family immigrating to Los Angeles, where Dr. Faye has practiced to this day.
Within that forty-five year period, Dr. Faye was on the original committees that started the Anglo-European Chiropractic College (AECC) in Bournemouth, England. He taught Motion Palpation and chiropractic technique of the spine, pelvis and extremities and developed the heuristic model of the "Subluxation Complex" as the core of the clinical sciences and clinical application of the dynamic principles of chiropractic at AECC. In the early stages of the AECC, he was able to maintain a practice and fill in as the Clinic Director.
On returning to Canada, in 1975, Dr. Faye taught full time for one year at CMCC, until he and his family settled in Ottawa. He was appointed by the Canadian Council on Chiropractic Education to observe the accreditation process of an American chiropractic college. It was through this experience that Dr. Faye perceived that the United States colleges were "stuck in the static model of chiropractic and had not made a move toward a more rational approach to the benefits of spinal adjusting the literature calls manipulation." He formed Motion Palpation Institute to "help remedy the situation."
Dr. Faye was awarded the Henri Gillet award by the Belgium Chiropractic Association and is an honorary member of the Canadian Chiropractic Sports Sciences Council. He has lectured to the Directors of the Rand Corporation while they were doing research projects for the chiropractic profession. He has never received an award by any American organization.
In an interview with The American Chiropractor (TAC), Dr. Faye reflects on the concepts he presented so many years ago that began a revolution for the chiropractic profession and redefined the subluxation complex.
TAC: Tell us about how you developed Motion Palpation. What inspired you?
Faye: In 1962, I was a very busy young chiropractor, practicing in Southampton, England. I did an in-house research study comparing the before and after X-rays of the patients that got well. I had a 300/500 unit and used fast screens and a 72-inch distance technique that reduced the radiation exposure to the patient by eighty-five percent. I discovered that these patients that got well had worse listings in sixty-seven percent of the cases. I had 120 patients in this study and I was shocked!
Soon after, early in 1963 in Belgium, I heard two great chiropractors speak for a half day each. Dr. Fred Illi ran 16mm film showing how the spine moved abnormally when patients had symptoms and how the function was normalized after they were adjusted and specifically exercised. Dr. Henri Gillet demonstrated how to palpate spinal motion dysfunction by using what he called Motion Palpation to discover joint fixations.
On returning to England, I did a literature search and purchased any books that dealt with spinal and extremity biomechanics.
We were preparing to open the Anglo European Chiropractic College and, to prepare technique classes, I classified what we did as addressing the five components of the "Subluxation Complex." The "Subluxation Complex" is really a heuristic model to help chiropractors organize their study categories, develop a diagnostic work up on a patient that leads to multiple diagnoses that will drive the treatment procedures and treatment schedules and provide a realistic patient anticipation of the expected outcome. It is not a single situation, like the old fashioned, misaligned vertebra. In the new model, we can rationally explain how the irritated, facilitated sympathetic nerves can affect organ dysfunction and lead to disease. More people are unhealthy because of facilitated nerves than from "pinched" nerves.
Thus, the classic static model was replaced with a dynamic, rational, functional model that was based on biomechanics, the neurobiological mechanisms, inflammation, muscle physiology and the effects of stress, as described by Hans Selye, MD. The model expands as new knowledge is discovered and the excitement to be a chiropractor never disappears. It is fun to swim in a sea of relativity and not follow a system that is guru-driven to be believed like a religion.
TAC: Can you tell us a bit more about facilitated nerves? What are they?
Faye: Our autonomic nervous system controls subconscious body function, like breathing and blood pressure, etc. The parasympathetics, normally, are in control until we come under noxious stress factors and then the sympathetic nervous system over-rides the parasympathetics to deal with the stress factors. Certain spinal joint dysfunctions irritate the sympathetic nervous system and cause it to be activated when there is really no need. Thus, the term facilitated nerves. Normal physiology switches into the "fight or flight mode" of physiology that can, in chronic situations, lead to tissue changes called pathology.
It is the opposite of the old model of "pinching" or shutting off nerve supply.
TAC: Have you noticed a lot of resistance to your ideas from certain segments in the profession?
Faye: To say I have had a lot of resistance in America is putting it mildly. The system promoters and their followers were very threatened by the logic and very large bibliography I was quoting. Bones don’t misalign unless there is degenerative pathology of the holding elements. Young patients’ nerves don’t get pinched or shut off; otherwise, they would all complain of numbness. Dogma was, and still is, rampant. I believe in free discussion to educate our profession. The solution many colleges had was to ban me from their campuses and continue to teach listings from X-rays.
I was considered out of order and a heretic by most American chiropractors in the 1980’s when I first started to lecture in the USA. I have mellowed in my desire to rescue the system followers and I keep contact with those that are in the dynamic paradigm that are used to discussing a topic of interest.
TAC: So, has the resistance changed much over the years? What is the current attitude of the profession toward your work?
Faye: Much of the literature and concepts that I introduced, through over four hundred seminars I, personally, presented, has been integrated into college programs and appears in questions on the National Board Exams. Doctors I helped make the paradigm shift have teaching jobs in many of our colleges. Many of these doctors specialized in one component of the model and ended up knowing much more than I do about that topic. That was always my goal. I envisaged we would have chiropractors with Ph. D. degrees in biomechanics, neurology, nutrition, epidemiology, etc., and we now do have these doctors that know our specific needs in these fields.
Many doctors, who did all the hard work I asked of them, occasionally let me know how successful they have become in their communities. Rational chiropractors, who keep up with the literature, never get bored and communicate well with other professionals, which has many practice benefits.
College lecturers that have not shifted, tell students of the failure of Motion Palpation to show excellent inter-examiner reliability and their students don’t realize Motion Palpation is only the tip of the iceberg of what I teach.
TAC: What do you use X-rays for?
Faye: Radiographs establish the level of degenerative changes that influence the establishment of treatment schedules and the prognosis, including the need for supportive, maintenance care. Static views cannot reveal joint dysfunction; but a series of flexion, extension, and lateral bending views will uncover hypo or hyper mobility and any translation defects. There are new technologies to record spinal joint dysfunction.
I X-ray all patients with no incident to report as the cause of their symptoms. Over the years, I have caught many pathologies, from cancer to Padgets’ Disease.
TAC: Do you use nutritional counseling to affect the patient?
Faye: Yes, I get my patients to go online and answer a long questionnaire that is sensitive to their specific answers and prescribes the necessary supplements based on scientific evidence. They get packets with their specific prescription for morning and evening consumption. If doctors email me at
, I can get them enrolled. It is sort of a doctors-only multilevel marketing situation.
TAC: Is the only thing you use to affect the patient based on functional information?
Faye: I believe in the healing power of Nature, if the host is supplied with all the normal conditions. Sometimes, a broad, nonspecific approach is necessary, so I can be quite eclectic with some patients. I teach some a form of meditation or I arrange for psychosocial counseling as two examples.
TAC: What other therapeutic modalities do you include when treating a patient? Why?
Faye: In chronic muscle spasm and atrophy areas where there is no inflammation, I use mostly heat packs for fifteen minutes to literally soften the soft tissues. That makes manipulation easier.
In chronic cases, I like to use the Ghua Sha or Graston instruments, to see if any adhesions have organized a capillary bed that needs to be disturbed and removed by the body.
I check for Trigger Points, as described by Travell, and spray and stretch when indicated.
I have found Active Release Technique to be effective when the adjustments don’t cause the muscle to normalize, especially with the very active muscles, like the calf , psoas and scalenius and shoulder muscles, to name a few.
For the inflamed tissues, I use Interferential Electro Therapy and instruct the patients to ice for twelve minutes every hour possible.
I use wobble boards and other low-tech rehab when the inflammation has cleared and add exercises at this stage.
Recently, I added a low level infrared laser to modulate pain and promote healing.
Many patients get a form of intermittent traction that is motorized by my Leader table. I often adjust patients prone when the table has the spine most distracted, if I am not treating a disc syndrome with the continuous passive motion traction.
I try to influence all the components of the "subluxation complex".
TAC: Tell us about The Motion Palpitation Institute which you co-founded.
Faye: While in the United States for the Canadian CCE in 1978, I contacted a classmate living in Los Angeles and was introduced to Dr. Don Petersen Sr., who was a promoter of chiropractic seminars and the founder of Dynamic Chiropractic newspaper.
I hired Dr. Petersen’s company and started the Motion Palpation Institute by creating a program that was presented over five weekends that taught a doctor and students how to transition from the static to the dynamic, functional model. It was a huge undertaking because it involved a paradigm shift, and hundreds of hours of study to learn biomechanics, motion palpation, about four hundred manipulations of the spine, pelvis and extremities, not to mention shedding the guru-driven dogma many believed without questioning. MPI, in a few years, had doctors at a level of expertise in clinical practice and over three hundred seminars were presented worldwide in the early eighties.
In 1986, I resigned from MPI and continued to lecture independently. Dr. Don Petersen Sr. died soon after and MPI was disassociated from the Dynamic Chiropractic publication.
I have given a few MPI seminars since the company’s reorganization, and am still accepting invitations to speak at conventions and present seminars worldwide
TAC: What is the most common problem you see among chiropractors today?
Faye: Many chiropractors want the "subluxation" to be the old "nerve interference" iron filing, rheostat, light-bulb concept, because it is easy for a patient to understand.
The problem is, it isn’t the truth, and educated, influential members of our society think we are ill informed for saying so.
The paradigm shift is on, but it has taken forty years to get this far. The rest of the world is much further into the shift from the static to the functional model. Structure isn’t the only thing that governs function.
Part of the paradigm shift is the development of companies that can invent supportive diagnostic equipment, like surface EMG, computerized muscle testing, and Range of Motion computerized analysis. Now that the model is rational, scientists can help us.
TAC: If the entire profession embraced your findings, what action steps would need to follow to create this more scientifically acceptable model? What time frames would this take?
Faye: Surprisingly, not very long. A paradigm shift is about looking at the same information from a different point of view. The adjustments don’t change, but how you determine the when, where, why, how, and how often to adjust changes.
Our promotion literature changes and we stop mis-informing the public about mis-alignments and repositioning vertebra for health. We are about drugless health care and the old model is reductionistic and far too simplistic. Disease is multicausuistic and we need a complex model of sophisticated natural healers. The information is available right now and the public is receptive. The irony is, we are not growing with this information. Our majority wants to remain in the static model. New companies understand the need to change and are producing products that reveal dynamic dysfunction.
For many of us, it is already happening as a result of the last forty years of new information. How much longer it will take all of our colleges to declare the "subluxated bone" to be a part of our history and get on with the new model is anybody’s guesstimate. I won’t see it happen, that’s for sure.
TAC: Using this "newer" model, what kind of benefits and changes in patient care could we look forward to? How would the chiropractic treatment change?
Faye: With the new model, patient care is based on more objective findings and re-evaluations and our care becomes much more standardized. This leads to validated treatment goals and treatment schedules that can be substantiated by studies. In other words, medical necessity is validated by the studies’ comparing patient groups with like conditions and complications. For example, some back pains are four- to ten-day affairs and others need to be managed for life. Groups on nutritional supplements and modalities can be compared to those treated with adjustments only. All kinds of ailments can be studied and compared to patients under medication.
We will be recognized for our management of conditions as well as our cure of some conditions. Right now, we want to give the impression we cure people instead of managing their healthful passage through life. Preventing degenerative arthritis by maintaining joint mobility is a huge undertaking that present research deems very likely, and only needs clinical studies to be set up in order that prospective observation can be recorded.
TAC: What is the biggest problem or challenge you see in the chiropractic profession today?
Faye: The fact that chiropractors are accepting really reduced fees from insurance companies is draining our profession of monetarily successful doctors that can afford to give back to the colleges and research organizations.
TAC: What single piece of advice would you give a new chiropractor just starting out?
Faye: Learn to detect dysfunction and know the adjustments that restore that function. Once a doctor realizes that it takes a series of treatments to get a specific adaptation to the imposed demand of the adjustment, then he/she will have patients that stick with them long enough to get a normal functional spine and extremities and not just pain relief. The homeostasis achieved will lead to many different health benefits.
TAC: What general advice would you give an established chiropractor whose practice might be struggling?
Faye: Older unsuccessful doctors need to realize there is a paradigm shift occurring. Many very intelligent chiropractors fail because, down deep, they don’t believe the old dogma but they haven’t replaced it with a rational, functional, dynamic model.
In this new model you have to keep reading and learning more knowledge all the time. Chiropractic needs to change, like other professions do, all the time.
TAC: Where do you see the future of chiropractic headed?
Faye: If we don’t establish our own scientific database and modernize, we won’t remain autonomous as the political pressure increases and our practitioners fail to earn professional incomes.
TAC: Any final words for our readers?
Faye: We have never known more about how we help our patients and, yet, we are still bickering over what B. J. said. The colleges have to teach generic chiropractic by picking the best of the techniques that are rationally explained and stop forcing our students to pick a system. Our societies need to open up and demonstrate free discussion. We have to stop protecting the irrational procedures done in the guise of chiropractic.
Motion Palpation is not a system. It becomes part of the decision making to determine when, where, why, how, and how often one should adjust this patient.
Dr. Faye has created a teaching website, www.chiropracticmentor.com, that is a very reasonably priced technique resource for students and doctors that wish to become masters of spinal and extremity manipulation. It has ten hours of video demonstrations available 24/7 for members. Dr. Faye can be reached by email at