Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Philosophy: Chiropractic to the Mainstream

by Timothy J. Maggs, DCIssue: February 2005
Chiropractic Products

Establishing a clear identity can increase your number of patients

Timothy J. Maggs, DC

As I began my first treatment on a 47-year-old male patient with low back pain, he asked me whether he could bring his x-rays to an orthopedist for a second opinion. This was after his first consultation, when I learned his pain had been ongoing for 10 years and was getting worse.

He would tell me how, on multiple occasions upon visiting his orthopedist, each time the doctor would say, “I’m sorry, but there is nothing I can do.” This was after my Structural Fingerprint®™ Exam, when I included the lower back and structural x-rays, and explained the ill-effects of abnormal weightbearing, the reason certain joints had already begun degenerating, and predictably, where his future was headed if he did not begin to rehabilitatively address these issues.

I spent some time explaining how the current health industry virtually ignores structural wellness and focuses more on testing and therapy, primarily consisting of pharmaceuticals and surgeries. I told him that physicians generally wait until you are broken, perform pathology-oriented tests that are typically negative, and then do whatever it takes to kill the pain.

No one is teaching the public how to preserve their structures. If you are age 47, and significant degeneration is already being seen on an x-ray, what does your future hold if you do not begin to address this issue? How do you expect to reach age 85 or 90 with a prayer of good health if you are having a hard time today?

The patient set up his first appointment for our 6-month program, which included 40 chiropractic adjustments with ultrasound, custom orthotics for all his shoes, a custom-designed exercise program to encourage and maintain mobility in the joints of his spine, and our muscle management program to improve and maintain muscle flexibility.

Religion of Modern Health Care

Chiropractors currently see less than 10% of society. The other 90% have either had a negative experience with chiropractors, or are the recipients of much of the misinformation that is so prevalent. This usually prevents them from finding a good one.

While the chiropractic profession has balanced at or around that 10% number, other health care workers continue to see the vast majority of society. So, if we as a profession ever hope to begin merging into the mainstream, we need to better understand what is involved. For example, how is it that a reasonably intelligent patient will ask someone multiple times over the years for an answer, without getting one; then will ultimately find someone who not only has an answer, but who makes sense? This usually leads a reasonably intelligent patient to want to check with the first person again, which does not make much sense.

So, how can these actions be explained? The reason is simple. Modern medicine has become like a religion to most people. Once a person is born in this country, everything they read, hear, see, and are taught tells them that modern medicine is the big brother for good health. The public is taught to live an enjoyable life, and when a crisis occurs, they should visit their family doctor. As far as types of treatment, everything they read, hear, see, and are taught tells them that modern medicine, in the form of pharmaceuticals, is the correct treatment of choice. If the condition is beyond pharmaceuticals, then surgery is often required. And, if either of these two are not the “solution,” then psychotherapy may be needed.

In the past 20 years—out of necessity—modern medicine has had to accept the growth of alternative health care into our society. The perception of the masses, however, is that “alternative medicine” is unfounded evidence presented by some fringe groups who have discovered some magical formula out back in their garage. This perception is encouraged by those in control of health care, as it allows modern medicine to continue in their authoritative role. However, alternative care is growing, as those members of society who have the ability to make their own choices based on reason and logic are fully aware that the methodology behind medicine is both illogical and inadequate, and the treatments provided are, for the most part, detrimental to society. Therefore, alternative medicine will continue to grow, but we cannot hope the authorities of modern medicine will embrace the benefits. If they do, they will risk losing the much-fought-for turf they currently control.

So, the religion of modern health care keeps many people robotically deciding who to go to and what to buy. Regardless of the logic we present, this mission of going mainstream is not a simple reeducation issue. It is much deeper and broader than that.

Chiropractic House-Cleaning

Now it is time for chiropractors to look in the mirror. Until we glare deeply into our own eyes, we will never right a wrong. Any successful company has a chairman, a board of directors, and a mission statement. There are good managers, and communication is paramount for the many daily details that occur. Simply put, the chiropractic profession has none of this. Thirteen percent of those in our profession belong to one of multiple national organizations. Yes, there are many fine leaders in our profession, but we have too many factions with different messages going out to the public. We oftentimes do not know our own identity, yet we hope the public gets it.

In addition, we have ridden the subluxation message in hopes that the public would understand and want to live happily “subluxation-free” ever after. It is time we put that phrase to bed, and never use it again; at least not publicly. Remember, those we are trying to bring into our offices are parishioners of modern medicine. These people do not want to investigate on their own and make informed decisions. They make decisions based on what others tell them, such as their medical doctors, commercials, billboards, and magazine articles. Most of these sources are promoting modern medicine and their ideals.

As a profession, we need to be more unified in our protocols and recommendations. Whereas one chiropractor will tell a patient to use chiropractic as a pain reliever, another will say they need chiropractic care regularly for the rest of their life. This is confusing to the public. A patient recently came into my office who had received treatment from another chiropractor for several years. The patient had read an article in Sports Illustrated about a 42-year-old water polo player who played Olympic-caliber water polo without ever being injured. The article stated further that the player’s father was a chiropractor, and that the athlete attributed his noninjury success to having been adjusted regularly throughout his life. So, this patient asked his former chiropractor if he could come in on a regular basis with the hopes of not getting injured. Keep in mind, however, that the patient had repeated episodes of lower back pain. The chiropractor discouraged him, explaining that it was not necessary.

When the patient came into my office, we x-rayed him and performed standard tests. He had a reduced range of motion in his lower back with muscle spasms. On x-ray, there was advanced degenerative changes, and the patient was only 45 years old. How on earth could anyone tell this patient that he should not be doing proactive, rehabilitative activities so he might have a better life? Well, that is only my opinion, but it just goes to show the diversity in what we are telling our patients.

Getting Chiropractic Into Mainstream

We must do five things to accelerate the inclusion of chiropractic into the mainstream. They include:

  1. Decide on a logical, unified message. I believe that the structural wellness approach is a great one, as it attracts everyone’s interests. When I lecture to 20 people, it is not just 10% who are interested; it is 90%. Everyone has a structure, and no one wants to age prematurely or become inactive early in life due to disabilities. Most people want to preserve their structures, but no one is showing them how to do it.
  2. Decide on a logical, unified in-office procedure. We have got to get away from the medical model of care, which is all symptom-based, and embrace the biomechanical model. In essence, what is needed is a protocol that makes sense and encourages the public to understand and use chiropractic for a lifetime. With this protocol, you would encourage members of your community to get structurally evaluated just as most people have their teeth cleaned on a regular basis. This is not an easy transition, as a chiropractor’s communication, management, and people skills need to greatly improve. Currently, many of the procedures being used in offices are influenced by the insurance industry. This has to stop.
  3. Train all chiropractors to become better ambassadors to get this message out through public speaking, writing, and all forms of communication. These skills are imperative, as confidence grows as these skills improve. Many in our profession cannot even communicate a good message on a one-on-one basis. A small profession with mixed messages, and members with low self-esteem and little confidence, is hardly the army needed to take the profession into the mainstream.
  4. Pool our resources, and create one group to mastermind the advertising and marketing campaign of this message. My experience has shown me that too many influential people look at chiropractic as a bogus profession. Until we begin to invest in reshaping these opinions, this profession’s future could be left in the hands of the misinformed.
  5. Continue research studies that are practical and make sense to the public. We spend countless dollars and energy on research studies to fit into the current health care community, and many of these studies will never make a difference in anyone’s life.

These are just a few of the areas that need to be “discovered” for the good of mankind, and can make a huge impact on the direction our health care system takes in the coming decades. We need to get away from the medical model of care and get back to the “pay now or pay later” approach. Society would love to pay now, but no one is showing them how. Also, it will give chiropractic a clear identity that will surely increase the number of people who want to use our services.

Timothy J. Maggs, DC, specializes in sports and industrial injury management and is a graduate of the National College of Chiropractic. He writes and speaks at numerous engagements.

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