Expert Profile - Michael Trayford
Dr. Michael S. Trayford, DC
Functional Medicine/Neurology Chiropractor
Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist
Board Certified in Neurofeedback
Founder and Director of Clinical Operations at APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC
Published journal contributor and author
Recipient of 2017/18 Functional Neurologist of the Year award from the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation
Dr. Michael Trayford’s Bio:
Dr. Michael S. Trayford is Board Certified in Chiropractic Neurology and Neurofeedback; and is the Founder and Director of Clinical Operations at APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC. His primary areas of focus in clinical practice, personal and clinical research, and teaching are complex brain injuries, learning and behavioral disorders (with a focus on addictive and compulsive behaviors), cognitive impairment, and human performance.
He is a published journal contributor and author, has lectured both nationally and internationally, and is the proud recipient of the 2017/18 Functional Neurologist of the Year award from the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation. His unique multimodal clinical programs serve patients from around the world through immersive neurological, physical, cognitive, and metabolic rehabilitation experiences.
Dr. Trayford’s driving force over the past 15 years has been helping to bridge the gap between those in the mental health and functional neurology communities. He teaches, mentors, and collaborates with providers and treatment programs both locally and nationally seeking brain-based approaches to addiction recovery; particularly when associated with TBI, learning and behavioral disorders, and cognitive impairment.
He currently sits on the Advisory Board for the Dementia Society of America and the Board of Directors for the International Association of Neuroregulation and Research, was recently published in the anthology Concussion Discussions with a chapter entitled The Concussion- Addiction Conundrum, and is currently penning his own book on brain-based addiction recovery to be released in 2022.
What life events or challenges that you have experienced (could be minor, could be major) whether you have experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to have a practice focus on patients with mental health challenges?
In 1995 I had a horrific motorcycle accident that left me hospitalized for many weeks. During this time, I became highly dependent on morphine and multiple pain medications given to me in excess by the health providers that, with the best of intentions, thought they were helping me. Through my own fortitude, powered by a tremendous drive to return to graduate school, I weaned myself off the medications and put them behind me.
What I came to realize in my years subsequent to this, newly in clinical practice, was that the vast majority of people do not have the same experience of being able to put it behind them as I did as they are serving a significant need in their life (avoiding pain and/or seeking pleasure). It became my purpose to figure out why this was relatively easy for some and nearly impossible for others. More recently – over the past 15 years or so – I watched one of my dearest friends pay the ultimate price for years of numbing psychological and physical pain through alcohol and prescription drugs that eventually shut down her body and took her life.
This reinforced my commitment to finding answers to how to address the neurology behind addiction and associated mental illness, learning disorders, etc. I have also lost many high school and college friends due to depression and alcohol and substance use disorders; and have had several friends and extended family members attempt suicide (with several succeeding!).
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
While I am one that tends to always look forward and “rolls with the punches” quite well, I struggle with these events, and the stories of my patients, almost daily – to the extent I have dedicated the last two years to writing a book on brain-based addiction recovery, to be released in 2022. To my patients; nearly everyone we see in our clinic, which specializes in brain injury, learning, and behavioral disorders, and cognitive impairment, is on a host of medications for their physical, metabolic, and psychological symptoms. Sometimes so many meds they aren’t even sure what certain ones are doing for them.
While we are firm believers in “a time and place” for most interventions, this overmedication of society and chasing symptoms with medications is clearly out of control. Further, the vast majority of these medications suppress neurological and physiological functions that impair any chance at rehabilitation and potential recovery in most cases. To add to this, the lack of education on simple concepts of sleeping well, eating well, moving well, managing stress, etc. that can have a profound impact on mental illness and addiction are most often neglected or overlooked in our current health care system. This is unacceptable!
When and why did you decide to actually focus on working with patients dealing with mental health issues, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
Over about 16 years ago when I moved to NC, I began working with several local mental health providers that noticed certain patients with a history of TBI were unable to obtain breakthroughs in treatment. When we were able to provide appropriate neurological and metabolic rehabilitation based on comprehensive evaluations and diagnostic testing, the therapists noticed their ability to connect with and engage their clients increased dramatically.
These revelations sparked in me a desire to expand my message of the need to address underlying neurological trauma, inefficiencies, delays, etc. concurrent with more traditional mental health approaches to a larger audience. Getting to know how each mental health provider’s approaches to patient care and the varied methodology they utilized allowed me to further expand my knowledge base and get deeper into the study of the learning and behavioral basis of addiction and mental health disorders; while they were able to more effectively address the trauma component with a brain that was better equipped to receive treatment. One thing I learned is that the majority of us were in agreement – those with mental health disorders are grossly over-medicated and largely under-treated with effective strategies to remediate both physical and psychological traumas and learning and behavioral disorders.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
Our programs are immersive in nature. The majority of our patients are treated approximately 4 hours per day for 1-4 weeks with neurological, physical, cognitive, and metabolic rehabilitation; all directed by diagnostic testing and clinical wisdom. Our 8-point Day of Discovery assessment provides valuable insight into “brain-body” connections through comprehensive history taking and neurological evaluation, and quantification of eye movements, balance and vestibular systems, motor timing mechanisms, cognitive ability, and brainwave regulation via EEG and qEEG.
We complement neurological testing with laboratory assessments of numerous metabolic biomarkers (organ and glandular functions, gut diversity, neurotoxins, food sensitivities, and much more). This testing drives all our treatment programs and provides baseline measurements that will be compared to post-intensive outcomes. We measure and manage every component of our treatment programs. Treatments include, but are not limited to, neurological and physical therapies (eye movements, complex motor skills, balance, and vestibular training, sensorimotor integration, motor timing, etc.), neurofeedback and biofeedback, pEMF, tDCS, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, low-level laser therapy, functional neurological chiropractic care, autonomic and self-regulation strategies, brainstem neuromodulation, metabolic and nutritional therapies, lifestyle counseling, and comprehensive aftercare programs.
All treatments are built around an intense focus on each individual’s goals and objectives, and special care is taken to work with each individual to the best of their ability levels. Our focus on brain integration and optimization, coupled with appropriate metabolic support and lifestyle changes, allow for true healing to begin – it takes a village!