When I discuss Trauma treatments with people whether it be for PTSD or CPTSD I often hear a range of modalities from classical talk therapies like CBT and DBT to Somatic Experiencing, neuro hacks like EMDR and TRE, to cutting-edge research on psychedelics but rarely have I heard anyone mention Network Spinal Analysis.
Created by Donny Epstein, Network Care, as it is affectionately called, can be described as “a very powerful chiropractic technique that allows for the central nervous system to reorganize its whole self, which will cause the person to experience new ways of perceiving and transforming their health, thoughts, emotions, and experience of life itself.” (Shiozawa, 2022)
More comprehensively the term Network Care refers to, the “Networking of various chiropractic techniques.”
“Through meticulous observation and by comparing the findings and results of one method with another, Epstein began to see the efficacy of marrying certain techniques in a manner which enables the practitioner, through the use of light touch, to release large amounts of spinal tension from a patient. Although this might not sound very dramatic, it is a fact that the absolutely remarkable ‘life-changing’ ways in which patients respond to this method of care has become a hallmark of NSA.” (Epstein)
I first experienced the powerful effects of Network Care after my psychiatrist referred me to Dr. Brian Lumb and Chelsea Rae Verslues’ practice at Nourish and Flourish in Asheville, North Carolina. I was skeptical at first after going to see a demonstration of the work, it almost looked like hocus pocus. With barely any touching the recipient’s body would undulate, stretch and shift with deep sighs of release. These deep sighs and movements I later find out were known as breath waves that allowed tension to be released from the body and the nervous system to reorganize itself more efficiently.
“What we are looking for in Network is for the system itself to reorganize and develop strategies for experiencing and releasing tension on its own. In the first level of care, which may last a few weeks, the person develops a strategy to connect the brain to the body more effectively and to develop a capacity for self-correction of the tension patterns. The care programme encourages the development of spontaneous stretching movements and breath movements which help release tension in the spine.” (Epstein)
After a brief few light touches during my first session with Dr. Brian, he asked me to sit up. After a childhood and young adult life filled with mental health issues, living on the streets for a period and numerous traumas my posture had led to a deep hunching of my shoulders. I dealt with chronic neck and shoulder pain and tightness as if my body had begun armoring itself against the weight of the experiences I had collected and was still unable to process. After sitting up my body immediately righted itself as if someone had pulled my posture into alignment. My shoulder rolled back, light as a feather and the tension seemed to have dissipated.
“Every region of the body and every emotion is expressed through the nervous system. Also, it’s the part of us with which we reason and which adapts us to stress and it’s the vehicle we use to create our conscious reality. So, when an event occurs that our brain decides is not safe for us to fully experience at that particular time, the energy and information of the event is translated into vibration and tension, which is then stored in the body.” (Epstein)
Three years of this work and my experiences with the healing it has brought me have varied fastly. Referring to each session as an entrainment rather than an adjustment as a traditional chiropractic visit might be referred to, my body and emotional range would be stretched from bouts of absolute bliss to deep sadness and rage. Finding myself waking up the morning after an entrainment, it would often feel as though my body was releasing some mysterious deep-seated tension that I did not understand cognitively but could feel on a very cathartic level. My whole body would sing evermore deeper into a greater state of rest that I hadn’t known before.
“In the second level of care, we are looking for the brain to be aware of the person’s tension, and actually temporarily amplify that tension and redirect it so that the tension actually becomes the fuel for further healing and transformation. Tension is what holds a person anchored in a position of non-safety. Lack of safety is the basis for all physiological stress and the way we accumulate this stress is directly associated with the way we experience our world.” (Epstein)
On the other side of the spectrum, there were times of chronic upheaval. I would find myself coughing incessantly as if my throat was being called to release some held tension from words or things I had held onto or pushed away and never spoken. I would find myself seething in anger as I came face to face with life-threatening traumas and abuse stuck inside me that I squashed and stuffed away in order to stay alive, safe, unseen, or hidden.
In the end, it was Network’s provocation of the stuck energy inside me that was responsible for liberating my body and nervous system and learning and expanding its language and knowledge for interacting with the world in a greater capacity. Years before I had seen a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner who used a jar filled with water and sediment that had settled at the bottom as a metaphor for our experience with healing from trauma. He told me that every time we look at our trauma and take an active step to work with it and heal it, the sediment in our jar gets shaken and clouds our vision. Initially, our jars are tiny and the water becomes very clouded making it chaotic and almost impossible to see but as we develop new strategies to work with the trauma and heal it our vessel for holding it becomes clearer and the trauma or the “sediment” becomes less intense. Network Care is like this on steroids but instead of creating greater containment for the trauma it allows your body to diffuse the old experiences creating more of a pipeline that allows for greater movement and a wider range of emotional experiences to pass through us. This allows our Nervous Systems to continually reorganize themselves and develop and learn new strategies.
After three years my need for therapy dramatically decreased. I’ve felt my body begin to adapt, reorganize, diffuse stress, and resolve trauma on its own. By no means would I say that it has replaced the need for medication or therapy but I have discovered that its effects have significantly complemented and mitigated the need for them in my life.
“I see Network Care not as competing with the existing medical paradigm but instead offering a totally different approach that says no matter what you do about the disease, allow that person to be upgraded from say a 64k computer to a Pentium. Allow them to develop new strategies that they never had before and that person will make healthier choices.” (Epstein)
Network Care accompanies Dr. Epstein’s redefining of how we look at “wellness” from a physical and emotional level of health taking it a step further to the spiritual domain of purpose.
“Wellness is not about whether a person has a disease. It’s about their internal experience of their body, the ability to make constructive healthy choices, and their ability to enjoy life and be well.” (Epstein)
Network Care not only achieves physical and emotional well-being but it goes a step further addressing our ability to connect and hold space allowing us to show up in our lives and communities in more dynamic ways that can be stabilizing to our environment and the people around us.
“What we are looking at here is an experience of life beyond the usual form. A more subtle engagement with the parts of the brain that allow a person to express their higher level of humanity and function occurs so that a greater capacity to express more connections of compassion and love arises. I call these ‘higher end social changes’, because there are spiritual connotations involved. The individual is different in the way they relate to others and their environment. They can be instrumental in helping create a more compassionately productive community.” (Epstein)
Think about it, when you have more people acting from a place of “Self”, as Dr. Richard Schwartz would call it, instead of a place of reaction, that state of stability has more gravity than unstable or reactive energy (Schwartz). Just like in physics the larger the mass the more gravity it creates so too with our nervous systems; the greater capacity to hold and stabilize creates gravity for others to sync up to.
I remember a therapist telling me “A good therapist works themselves out of a job, that’s what I aim to do with you,” Network Care works just like this flushing out stuck energy and tension from the nervous system and teaching it to reorganize itself until it can diffuse, grow and reorganize on its own. Operating on the maxim, “the strongest nervous system creates the greatest influence.” It has allowed me a greater ability to experience more rest, general well-being, healing, and the ability to share my own story through homelessness and childhood trauma in order to heal and transform the lives of others.
For more information about Network Care, Dr. Richard Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems Model, or my own project,
Click the links below:
Dr. Donald Epstein, Network Care: https://epienergetics.com/
Dr. Richard Schwartz, Internal Family Systems: https://ifs-institute.com/
Jeff Spiteri, The Bridge Within:
Epstein, Donald. “Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) – Interview with Dr Epstein.” Article – Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) – Interview with Dr Epstein, https://www.positivehealth.com/article/bodywork/network-spinal-analysis-nsa-interview-with-dr-epstein.
Schwartz, Richard. “The Larger Self.” IFS Institute, https://ifs-institute.com/resources/articles/larger-self.
Jeff Spiteri is an author of the unpublished book ‘The Bridge Within’ a memoir chronicling his experiences as a homeless young adult riding freight trains around the United States and the childhood trauma he uncovered along the way. Jeff is proud to use his voice as an instrument of influence, guidance and impact with young adults and educators sharing his experiences and tools for resilience and healing.