Wellness War

You'd think that it would be difficult for chiropractors to dismiss a new theory of healing through spinal adjustment as quackery. You'd be wrong.

About four years ago Dr. Julie Orman opened her chiropractic office amidst the bookstores, coffee shops, and yoga studios on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue. Orman practices a holistic style of chiropractic, known as “Network,” one that blends well with the bohemian-bourgeois vibe on Piedmont. Orman decorated her office, a refurbished Victorian home, in a soothing, healing motif: soft carpeting, pastel colors, scents of citrus.

Just down the street from Orman’s new digs is the office of Dr. Bruce Del Fante. Unlike Orman’s warm sanctuary, Del Fante’s office is square and drab. The words “auto accidents” are painted on the front window just below an orange-yellow neon sign that reads “Chiropractor.” Inside, a coffee table covered with dated sports magazines dominates the waiting room. Del Fante’s been on the avenue since 1986, so when Orman moved in, he walked down the block to introduce himself to his new neighbor.

“I asked her what type of chiropractic she practiced,” Del Fante recalls. “And she said ‘Network.’ I had never heard of Network.”

To give Del Fante a quick lesson, Orman placed her colleague face down on the adjusting table and raised Del Fante’s heels to his buttocks, then brought them back down. No surprise there: leg measurements are standard procedure. But then Orman moved her fingertips along Del Fante’s spine, searching for what she called the “rapport” in his body. Orman used the tips of her thumbs to make a few soft “contacts” near the base of Del Fante’s spine — and then she was done.

“Afterward,” Del Fante says, “I thought it was kind of funny. I thought, ‘What the heck was that?’ I could barely feel it. In fact, I didn’t feel anything.” What Del Fante received was not a routine chiropractic adjustment, but a Network adjustment. Procedures like this will, its practitioners like to say, change the world one spine at a time.

Network Spinal Analysis, or NSA, was developed in the early ’80s by a chiropractor named Donald Epstein who decided that almost anything can be healed with a few well-placed taps along the spine. When accurately placed, those taps release spinal muscular tension, Epstein teaches, and that, in turn, releases the true source of one’s ailment — emotional tension.

The effect of this release of emotional tension can be epic. Network patients are known to dissolve into tears during adjustments, recalling traumatic childhood experiences or, just as easily, visiting blissful regions of the soul. Patients commonly compare the experience of undergoing Network adjustments to the heightened state of consciousness reached by ingesting mind-altering drugs. And practitioners say their healing technique knows no bounds: crippled children have walked; brain tumors have shrunk; eyesight has returned.

Network offices have flourished within liberal-minded bastions like the Bay Area and Boulder over the last ten years, but destinations in between are now beginning to fill in as well. Thanks to Epstein’s tireless globe-trotting, Dr. Orman is now one of about three thousand chiropractors practicing Network in the United States. Another five hundred or so work abroad.

Not everyone considers the Network experience a fresh breath of healing, however, and the loudest choking sounds are coming from fellow chiropractors. Each state has a regulatory board charged with licensing chiropractors, and some states have balked at licensing NSA practitioners. Wisconsin’s board of examiners, for instance, has refused to certify practitioners of “non-force” adjustments, and Colorado asks patients to sign waivers that acknowledge Network as an “unproven procedure.” In California, where more than one hundred Network chiropractors work, and see thousands of patients every day, the practice hasn’t even appeared on the regulatory radar.

Back on Piedmont Avenue, Dr. Del Fante remains skeptical of Network’s true healing capacities and fears its growing popularity might provoke a backlash. “If you think doctors hate chiropractors now, woo-hoo,” Del Fante says, shaking his head. “They would really hate Network.”

Chiropractic care began in this country in 1895, during an era when potions and pills were sold out of the backs of wagons, and surgery was a bloody and gruesome torture. David Daniel Palmer, a self-taught “magnetic healer” who practiced in Davenport, Iowa, sought a way to cure illness without prescribing drugs or cutting skin. According to chiropractic history books, on September 18 that year Palmer located a displaced vertebra in a deaf man’s back and used his hands to thrust it into alignment. The man’s hearing immediately returned, inspiring Palmer to study the spine’s relationship to overall health. Palmer theorized most diseases were caused by misaligned vertebrae that impinged on spinal nerves; he called these misalignments “subluxations.” Palmer concluded the key to restoring normal nerve and brain function was to correct these subluxations, a task which remains the mission of all chiropractors.

A decade later, Palmer and his pupils opened the nation’s first chiropractic college. Palmer’s doctors adhered to four principles: that the body is a self-healing and self-regulating organism; that the nervous system controls all function of the body; that any interference with nervous system function must, therefore, interfere with body function; and that the mandate of the chiropractor is to eliminate that interference.

To medical doctors and to much of the general population, Palmer’s worldview sounded like quackery. Immediately, medical physicians challenged Palmer’s conclusions, noting that his data bypassed the scientific method. It was but the first shot in what became an acrimonious war. Over the years, medical doctors have published countless articles challenging chiropractic validity, adamantly arguing against the existence of subluxations. Subluxations aren’t visible to the naked eye, doctors point out, and they don’t appear in X-rays.

Even today, though you can find a chiropractic office in nearly every strip mall from Berkeley to Buffalo, it’s been difficult for chiropractors to prove the efficacy of the therapy in the eyes of the Western medical establishment. In 1992, the RAND Corporation, an independent think-tank, published what’s considered an unbiased comprehensive survey on chiropractic care in America. The analysis conceded that chiropractic “benefits some people with acute lower back pain.” The survey wrote that visiting a chiropractor for lower back pain that’s been around for less than three weeks is “appropriate” since the “expected benefits exceed the expected risks.”

Researchers didn’t find much else. “The lack of high-quality studies reported in the medical literature makes it difficult to arrive at comprehensive conclusions about chiropractic care,” the report concluded. “We didn’t find enough data from well-designed studies to say anything about chiropractic’s value for chronic low-back pain or low-back pain that involves an irritated sciatic nerve; about the complication rate of chiropractic treatment; about the number of manipulations needed to get the maximum response; or about the cost-effectiveness of manipulation compared with other types of care, such as forms of physical therapy or even home self-care.”

To say the least, the RAND researchers were a world away from finding any evidence that chiropractic could cure maladies created by excessive emotional stress.

Dr. Epstein set out on the path that was to become Network Spinal Analysis in 1983 when he says he barely touched a patient’s neck and watched her jump off his adjusting table. Epstein had graduated from chiropractic college six years prior in his home state of New York, and had already dedicated his career to finding a way to release spinal cord tension without jerking the spine. He was experimenting with a technique that required making mild taps in two areas where the spine attaches to the cerebral cortex at the base and at the neck. On that afternoon in his office, Epstein’s patient, who suffered from lupus, began weeping and kicking and punching. “Get off me! Get off me! Get off me!” she shouted, according to Epstein, who recalls the moment from his Boulder, Colorado office. Epstein still speaks with a strong New York accent. “A few minutes later she said, ‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’ ” remembers Epstein.

The woman later explained that during the adjustment she had found herself reliving moments of childhood abuse, Epstein said. Until then, memories of the trauma had flickered into her mind like random scenes from what she thought was a movie she had viewed long ago; when Epstein made contact, the scenes came alive. Only after the woman realized the true source of her emotional pain her body was capable of healing from “the inside out,” Epstein asserted. With more Network treatment, and a growing connection to her emotional pain, Epstein says, the woman’s lupus slid into remission.

The question for Epstein then became, where to make contact? And, how much pressure is enough?

Like his fellow chiropractors, Epstein believes we wear residue from our life’s experiences somewhere along the spine, and a tweak in the right spot can make us feel better. He theorizes that the spine is continually engaged in a two-way conversation with the mind; what we see in our mind, we feel in our body, and vice versa. Generally speaking, the positive images and experiences ingested into a person — say, petting a puppy on a Sunday afternoon — flow freely into the mind, and then the body, and sit with ease in tiny little “depots” along the spine. The difficult or negative experiences — childhood abuse, death of a parent, a car crash — also live in depots, but in those spots energy flow slows to stasis and the musculature surrounding the area is tough. Network chiropractors use two fingers to tap along the length of the spine, seeking the tough spots and the soft ones. A healthy spine is long and languid; a troubled one is kinked and crumpled. As Epstein likes to say, “The shape, tone, and tension of your spine is in direct relationship to the shape, tone, and tension of your life.”

Where Epstein’s chiropractic colleagues believe a strong tweak or a crack is what leads to healing, Epstein argues that gentle contacts at the proper “Spinal Gateways” over time can achieve fuller results by sending oxygen flow to the blocked areas. When oxygen soothes its way into regions of the spine that have long been neglected or flat-out denied, Epstein says, the patient can finally reach the truth of their ailment. Where a traditional chiropractor might push a jagged vertebra into place in just one visit and make the patient feel better for a few weeks, Epstein says, a Network practitioner will help a body teach itself to heal over several weeks; the vertebra may actually “drop into place” on its own.

Initially, Epstein says, his taps were too strong and he was sending “too much information” through his patients’ bodies, creating large waves of energy known as “respiratory waves.” The result was comparable to turning on a water faucet full throttle, and patients experienced full-bore emotional experiences after one or two adjustments. Epstein and his colleagues honed the contacts to create a more subtle healing process and today, Epstein says, he uses only four ounces of pressure. (To get an idea of how soft that is, close one eye and touch your eyelid.) Each spinal contact, Epstein says, cues the brain to revert from stress to safety between one and four seconds. Repetition trains a body to take on a new strategy, Epstein says, one that lives in safety instead of stress.

In September 2000 Epstein published the results from a year-long study that he believes proved his therapeutic approach has positive effects on his patients. Dr. Robert Blanks at the University of California at Irvine devised a questionnaire which was distributed to Network chiropractors and handed out to nearly three thousand patients. When the “self-rated wellness” questionnaires were returned, seventy-six percent of those polled reported large changes in the “wellness” in their lives post-care. (Survey subjects were “predominately white, female, well-educated professionals or white-collar workers.”) Epstein and Blanks also concluded that patients who stayed under care longer, healed more. Over years patients moved through four phases of healing, which Epstein trademarked as “Levels of Care.” “Each Level of Care,” Epstein wrote, “appears to be accompanied by an increase in self-awareness and self-responsibility by the patient for his spine and nervous system, in relationship to his healing and life.”

After years of hands-on experimentation, and thousands of patients reporting fuller and richer lives, Epstein says he experienced his own epiphany when he was approached by a young boy who waited each week in the lobby of his office while his father was treated. Epstein reports that the boy thanked him for turning his father from an angry man into a loving one. After the adjustments, the boy said, “Daddy stops yelling at me and stops punching mom in the face.” The moment led Epstein to believe that Network’s healing potential flowed outside the immediate patient, and into the patient’s community of family and friends. His new technique could, in fact, heal the world, and that’s what he set out to do.

Outside Epstein’s office, however, his colleagues nervously asked for proof.

“The problem with Network,” says Cathy Ostroff, a chiropractor with twenty-five years’ experience, “is that it is a potentially destructive element within our own ranks as chiropractors. It adds weight and substance to images of unprofessionalism, anti-intellectualism, fanaticism, and na?vet? that we have long tried to dispel.”

As longtime chiropractors like Ostroff well know, it was only in 1990 that the discipline finally fought its way out of quacksville and earned its place in the world of Western medicine, and it was only by way of a Supreme Court ruling. In Wilks v. American Medical Association, the court found that the AMA had illegally conspired with its medical physicians to drive a chiropractor out of business. The AMA had famously defined chiropractic as a ‘cult,’ a moniker that’s taken decades to erase.

Today, sixty million Americans visit chiropractors annually, and there are 50,000 to choose from, half of whom have entered practice since 1977. The AMA no longer continues its boycott, officially, but chiropractors still complain that lingering effects from decades of persecution have contributed to their second-tier status as healers. Since chiropractors persevered in the Wilks case, the profession’s advocacy groups, like the American Chiropractic Association, have only buffed up; scores of lawsuits are filed each year claiming discrimination; letter-writing campaigns to medical journals and media outlets instantly ‘set the record straight;’ paid lobbyists work hard to battle regulation and win ‘same-rights-as-doctors’ laws.

Last month, to further demonstrate the profession’s arrival in the mainstream, the ACA all but wallpapered media organizations with the news that President Bush had signed a bill allowing veterans full coverage for chiropractic care. ‘The ACA is hailing the new law as not only an enormous triumph for the profession,’ said the news release, ‘but also proof of the powerful role chiropractic plays on Capitol Hill and in the nation’s health care system.’

A subculture like Network could undermine this progress, Ostroff says, especially if it continues its rapid gains in popularity. Ostroff agrees with other chiropractors that working with the spine is the key to a body’s overall health, but she stops short of claiming that she can cure diseases. “There’s a lot of stuff chiropractic can help. A lot. But there are a lot of things it can’t. People get cancer. People get tumors. And there’s not a damn thing chiropractic can do about that.”

When Ostroff attended a Network seminar a few years ago to figure out what all the noise was about, she came away far from impressed. She met plenty of young students, fresh out of college, willing to share what she says they called “the wonder of Network.” But the adjustment she received employed a variety of low-velocity techniques that she’d come across before; nothing new, she said.

It was the overall tone of the event that struck Ostroff. Students in chiropractic generally learn a dozen different techniques to move spines, and Network devotees spoke of theirs as superior, to the point of arrogance. They spoke of Dr. Donald Epstein and his spine-clearing ideas in guru-like fashion. Instead of adjusting one patient at a time, they crammed several in one room so, they said, everyone’s body could help each other heal simultaneously. They said freeing the tension in one person’s body would help another who was laying next to him. “Jumping from table to table; they made a circus out of it,” Ostroff says. “If I’m going to get adjusted, I’d like to be alone with my physician — especially if I’m going to have an emotional breakdown.”

“Network is a cult,” Ostroff says flatly, though she’s aware of the irony implicit in the accusation. “They say, ‘We have it and you don’t. If you don’t believe in what we’re doing then you’re not getting it.’ And that’s a cult.”

William Beck suffers from spino-cerebellar ataxia, a degenerative disease that, until recently, left him wilting in a wheelchair. Beck is a forty-three-year-old software quality engineer living in Milpitas, and the disease that’s been eating him for twenty years is undeniably visible; his untempered balance sends him listing into walls; his strength wavers by the moment; his voice is guttural and slurred.

Beck’s brain and body churn in slow motion. When he sees an object he wants to grab — say, a stapler from the table — he keeps his eyes pinned on the object, looks down at his arm, and then guides his arm into the target. Movement without pause for contemplation is impossible. When he walks into a room that’s pitch-black, Beck loses all directional sense; the floor disappears, then the ceiling, then the walls. “My brain doesn’t know where it is in space,” he says.

Though his disease has a name, effective treatment has been elusive. Beck says that since his symptoms appeared, the physicians that have looked at him usually look at him quizzically and then order more tests. Raised in Santa Cruz, Beck says he’s always been a personality from “the left side of the pond,” so he’s comfortable with going outside the Western tradition for health care. “I think Western medicine is on target seventy percent of the time. But only in terms of the mechanics — blood, cells, bones. They don’t know anything about how the brain works with the body and they don’t know anything about how your life is going: if you have love in your life; if you have anger in your life; if you’ve had an emotional mess in your life. They don’t take into account how all those things affect your health. There’s more to it than just the physical world.”

For the past fifteen years, Beck has visited a traditional chiropractor once or twice a month to snap back into alignment. Two years ago, however, Beck’s health fell in steep decline; his walker turned into a wheelchair, and he became so depressed he feared venturing outside, believing he’d undoubtedly fall from his chair. To battle back, he began experimenting with a bevy of nutritional aids and supplements, physical therapy, and tai chi classes.

A friend suggested Beck visit Dr. Guy Doran, a Network chiropractor in Redwood City. Doran is probably the best-known Network practitioner on the peninsula. He buys advertising on local radio stations, and has been featured in newscasts boasting of Network’s successes. In the lobby of his office, Doran has pictures of a twelve-year-old boy walking for the first time in seven years after one of his adjustments.

Despite the high frequency of visits Doran suggested, Beck agreed. Like all Network practitioners, Doran asks new patients to visit three times a week for the first few months. After three months of care, Doran said the frequency could decrease. Beck was adjusted in a room with five others. Sounds of water running over rocks and easy music filtered into the room.

“The first adjustment I didn’t feel anything,” Beck recalls — which isn’t unusual. Network practitioners commonly tell patients not to expect too much the first try. “But I was committed to see what would happen.” After about five visits, Beck says he noticed “changes all over my body. I started feeling positive about myself, overall. I started feeling like I was in a better mood. When I’d be driving home on the freeway [and] somebody would cut me off, I wouldn’t get mad and experience road rage. It was like those things just didn’t happen, or if they did, I just didn’t notice them.”

Beck says he didn’t touch any deep emotional wounds during the sessions, but his energy level outside Doran’s office rose sharply. After adjustments, he felt less anxiety about falling in public, and the more he went outdoors, the higher his spirits climbed. After about six months of regular Network care, Beck stepped out of his wheelchair and returned to feeling confident behind his walker. “The process was so subtle and gradual,” Beck recalls, “so I just kept going [to Network], and practicing, and trying to walk. There was no magic moment when the light switched on and I started walking. I just felt better over time.”

Looking back, Beck says it’s hard to give Network all the credit for helping him step out of his wheelchair and back onto the road of improving health. He feels rejuvenated, certainly, but he also considers his personal determination and his other exercises to be crucial. “I feel better, and feeling a new energy makes me more positive, but I can’t isolate Network as the cause of that.”

Recently, Beck stopped visiting Dr. Doran. He says he knows he should get back to regular treatment. “The high frequency has been difficult to keep up with,” Beck says. “It’s not a physical issue — I like going. But scheduling for so much time in the office is the real bear.”

Dr. Raymond Ursillo, a chiropractor for more than fifty years, oversees complaints and enforcement for the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners from his office in Sacramento, and though he’s familiar with Network, he isn’t aware of a single consumer complaint against the practice. But, Ursillo adds, the board understands Network is a peculiar bird, one that flies both in and out of the state’s definition of chiropractic.

As in most states, licensed chiropractors in California can only perform approved techniques currently taught in chiropractic colleges. The specific therapy called Network isn’t, but then again, Ursillo says, the method Network practitioners employ is actually a combination of several established techniques so it is, arguably, taught in schools today. Though he admits that “the very word ‘Network’ is tricky, even difficult,” he says, “it’s an integration of several chiropractic techniques and that keeps it from going outside the law.” Barring any consumer or colleague complaints, Ursillo says his board will take a wait-and-see-approach. “We’re not on a witch-hunt here.”

Jim Turner, attorney for Epstein’s company Innate Intelligence Inc., has been working on a document that he says will define Network as a tried-and-true discipline, and satisfy state boards across the country. Turner says Network catches resistance only because it’s a revolutionary technique on the rise, and medical disciplines are historically slow to accept mavericks like Epstein. Turner is banking on ongoing scientific studies at UC Irvine to give Network a dose of medical-community street credibility. Network is still an “experimental” technique, Turner says, but he promises that proof of its success is coming, proof that will move it into the category of an “emerging” therapy.

“In the past there was a communication breakdown between boards and our practitioners. Boards wanted to know what it was, and practitioners couldn’t explain it. Now, there’s a connection happening that is making the discussion much more broad. From the boards’ standpoint, they want to know how you can get official results from Network, and it’s been difficult to explain to them. On the other side, [Network] practitioners think they’re being attacked by the boards. And it’s the lawyers’ job to bring this into a language that can be understood by both sides.”

In Wisconsin, the issue was decided in court. In 1995, a group of skeptical local chiropractors complained Network’s health claims were based on spirituality and not physical data. The state’s Chiropractic Examining Board agreed, and wrote a rule banning Network. Epstein and local Network practitioners appealed the ruling in a circuit court, and won after the judge considered the rule narrow and discriminatory. The win was an important one for Network; a loss could have cued other state boards to draft similar exclusionary rules.

Network doctors have proudly gone back to work in Wisconsin, but the examining board followed their loss by rewriting another rule with Network clearly in mind: “It is not permitted for a chiropractor to engage in any practice, system, analysis, method, or protocol which is representative of a means of attaining spiritual growth, spiritual comfort or spiritual well-being.” The broader rule hasn’t brought down any heat on Network doctors. According to the NSA certification list, seven currently work in the state. That may not last for long, though. “It’s safe to say,” John Schweitzer, the board’s attorney says, “that Network chiropractors, or Network chiropractic as I understand it, is not permitted in Wisconsin.”

Ironically, even as his lawyers defend his methods in front of state licensing boards, Donald Epstein is busy shifting Network outside chiropractic altogether, thus creating an entirely new discipline. He says he’s tired of fighting the turf war within the chiropractic world. “I’ve gotten to the point that providing changes in people’s lives is more important than which box gets checked off, or what certificate a certain group pledges their allegiance to. Many chiropractors have contacted me and said, ‘You’re evolving chiropractic and why can’t it stay in chiropractic?’ Well, I want a practitioner to say what they need to say without being fearful of being censored by their state board.”

In 1999, Epstein had what he calls a major “aha” moment in his career that helped him decide to leave traditional chiropractic. He concluded that aside from the respiratory waves, his taps were also producing “somatophysic” waves, which rocked the spine in a dolphin-like movement. The new waves were responsible for triggering the emotional experience that led patients to an increased quality of life. “That led me to believe either Network was adjusting spines more effectively than had ever been done before — which is an arrogant statement for which I have no evidence — or that we had discovered a new principle and, potentially, a new discipline.”

Epstein hopes to offer a new certificate online called a “Degree in Wellness, Quality of Life and Healthy Life Styles Assessment.” The course, leading to certification, will be open to all laypersons who have at least a bachelor’s degree, and will study the principles of Network care as distinct from chiropractic. “In that regard,” reads the course description on Epstein’s Web site, “rather than claiming that NSA is a system of analyzing and adjusting subluxations to achieve the benefits demonstrated through research, it is now recognized that the benefits achieved were associated with phenomena other than the adjustment of subluxations. If subluxation correction alone was involved, then other excellent methods of chiropractic would also produce these wave processes that are characteristic of NSA care.”

Within a few years, Epstein says, Network will branch out on its own. Though at first clients will have to pay cash unless their practitioners are also licensed chiropractors, once Network gains acceptance by the medical community, Epstein predicts insurance companies will rush to support Network. “I suspect that over the longer term Network care will have more reimbursement than any other form of care. I believe corporations will be paying for it. Governments will be paying for it once they realize how it will reduce what they spend on medical costs. However, I also feel a person should be paying out of their own pocket, because wellness is something a person should take care of themselves and not have someone else take care of it for you.”

Right now, Epstein says, the National Institutes of Health is conducting a study to survey the affects Network has on teenage smokers and drug addicts. Another study in Florida places nonviolent criminals who have just been released from prison under Network care. And in Italy, the national soccer team is experimenting with Network to determine whether regular treatment will prevent injuries and foster solidarity among teammates. (Bill Romanowski, a linebacker who recently signed with the Oakland Raiders and is known for causing mayhem on the field, receives a Network adjustment after each game. “My whole quality of life has gotten better since doing Network care,” Romo told a chiropractic magazine last year. )

For Epstein, times are very good indeed. His latest (self-published) book, Healing Myths, Healing Magic, was blurbed by Deepak Chopra, and Epstein recently spoke before a White House committee on wellness in America. He flies around the country to host healing seminars, called “Gateways,” nearly every weekend, and is leading Network’s growth not only in this country, but in Italy and Australia.

“I see myself as a cultural creative who is helping change the culture by teaching people the body itself helps change the world,” Epstein says. “We want to make radical changes in our world and in our lives. And those start with radical changes from the inside.”

Dr. Julie Orman says she wasn’t sold the first time she received a Network adjustment, either. “I didn’t believe it at all,” she says, sitting on an adjustment table in her office on Piedmont Avenue. “I thought, who’s going to believe this? I wouldn’t believe it. I was still resistant to it.”

Educated in Michigan, Orman opened her first Oakland office in 1996 and applied all the bone-moving techniques she learned in school. “You could hear a pop,” she says, reveling in what once indicated success. Orman gave Network another try at the suggestion of her brother. Her next chance came when she attended a Gateway retreat. Gateway participants are required to undergo Network care for at least three months, Orman says, and she agreed. After a few weeks of Network adjustments, at the prescribed rate of three visits per week, Orman says she felt subtle shifts rolling through her body. From her core to skin, Orman describes, her body felt a “liberation that I had forgot was there.”

“I hadn’t realized I had lost it,” Orman says, moving her hands from the center of her chest outward. “Before I did Network, I was in a ‘fix-it-now’ mode. After Network, I came into a healing mode. And that’s a much different paradigm.”

Within the Network paradigm, Orman might be considered a conservative. She refers some of her patients who need X-rays to her colleague down the street, Dr. Bruce Del Fante. And when she explains how Network works, she shies away from words like “energy.” “It can sound weird to some people and turn them off.” But she says that in her life, and in the lives of her patients, Network has brought an undeniable joy. Orman’s walls are decorated with pictures of smiling human beings. She’s worked on colicky babies who stopped crying after a few adjustments. Another patient’s brain tumor has all but disappeared. Orman stops short of taking absolute credit for these events, but she’s not denying her abilities. When people believe their bodies can heal, Orman says, then they do. “And I assist them in that process. How cool is that?”

One rainy afternoon last month a man who looks about forty-five years old walks into Orman’s office. He’s got a white beard and white hair, and wears a newsboy cap. He carries a quality umbrella. His head is slightly kinked, and his left ear is dropping toward his shoulder. The man’s left hip is tucked in, painfully. From behind, his tilted head and slanted spine look like the number seven.

“I’ve got an ear infection,” he tells Dr. Orman at the front desk. “I understand chiropractors can be helpful.” Orman explains chiropractors are known for clearing up noses and throats and heads, and she could clear the fluid behind the ear — if that’s the true problem. “It could be a vertebra down here that’s moved and it’s pinching the flow.” The man nods. “So do you massage the nerves to get it out?”

“You could,” Orman says. Then she explains the Network philosophy. As she speaks, the man’s head rises, nearly straightens. His hands are on the receptionist’s counter, holding up his leaning posture. Orman offers some leaflets on Network and gives the man a quick lesson. “I’d find those spots along your spine,” Orman says, “and touch you like this” — she uses the side of her thumb to graze the top of the man’s hand.

The man looks down at his bare hand. “I’ll read some of the literature, and get back to you,” he says.

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