Dr. Suh and the University of Colorado Project
Beginning in the 1970s, first with grants from the International Chiropractors Association, and later with added financial support from the American Chiropractic Association and the federal government of the United States, Chung Ha Suh, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Biomechanics Department of the University of Colorado began a series of studies which have provided an extensive body of chiropractic-related scientific research.
It is worth noting that Dr. Suh, the first American college professor willing to stick his neck out for chiropractic research, grew up in Korea, where he had not been subjected to the same life-long anti-chiropractic bias as his American colleagues. In undertaking this research, he had to withstand intense pressure from powerful forces within the American medical and academic establishments.
The AMA and cohorts condemned chiropractic for lack of scientific underpinning, while at the same time doing everything in their considerable power to prevent chiropractors from ever obtaining the funding and university connections necessary for the development of such a research base.
Time and again in American history, it has been immigrants who have brought to our land the fresh perspectives needed to move our society forward. In addition, progress has often required the courage to stand up against politically powerful forces of stagnation. Dr. C.H. Suh stands as a modern exemplar of both these traditions.
The research at the University of Colorado involved two major projects. In one, Dr. Suh developed a complex computer model of the cervical spine, which allowed a deeper understanding of spinal joint mechanics and their relationship to the chiropractic adjustment.
The second project involved studying the effects of compression on spinal nerve roots. Seth Sharpless, Ph.D., Marvin Luttges, Ph.D., and their colleagues demonstrated that minuscule amounts of pressure on a nerve root (10mm Hg, equal to a feather falling on your hand), resulted in up to a 50 percent decrease in electrical transmission down the course of the nerve supplied by that root. Chiropractors have long claimed that minimal pressure on nerves could have a significant physiological impact. This study gave credence to such claims and offered a promising path for future research.
Most of the recent interdisciplinary clinical research jointly conducted by chiropractors and medical physicians has been done outside the United States, which still remains the last, strongest bastion of the medical regime. The most influential research studies of the past decade were done in Canada, Great Britain and the Netherlands.