Why Not Chiropractic?

Why isn’t everyone getting adjusted?  I mean, what is so terrible, scary, or wrong with a chiropractic adjustment?  There are plenty of other things that are far more risky.  In my opinion, there are also few other things that offer the same health benefits as a chiropractic adjustment.  So, why isn’t everyone seeing a chiropractor?

Chiropractic, as an art and science, has been around for over 100 years, since 1895.  Even then, Hippocrates, the father of Medicine talks extensively of the spine as a cause of disease and joint mobilization has been used for thousands of years by various cultures from around the world.  True, chiropractic as a healing art has gained traction in recent years, being covered by Medicare, recognized by the Veterans Administration, and addressed by most health insurances.  Chiropractors can even train in specialties like orthopedics, neurology, radiology and other disciplines.  Still, I get the impression that chiropractic is the ugly kid in the corner of the room no one wants to talk to.

One of my assistants recently told my about a visit she had to her son’s pediatrician that encompasses effects of poor information.  The pediatrician, recognizing that my assistant was in scrubs (our office uniform) asked what her profession was.   When she told her son’s doctor she was a chiropractic assistant, the tone of the visit changed.  The pediatrician asked with some apprehension, ‘well your son doesn’t get adjusted does he?’  My assistant was quick to say that he did and further explained that we see lots of kids in our office.  The pediatrician, knowing she was an assistant to a chiropractor, began to attempt to re-educate her about adjusting and told her that they ‘don’t believe in chiropractic.’  My assistant asked why, because we see children do amazingly well in our office all the time.  The doctor then continued, ‘Well, I’ve never been to a chiropractor but…’  Need I go on?

This unfortunate scenario is only the most recent of frequent reports I here from other “health” professionals.  Within this past week, I had another of my assistants visit a doctor’s office and introduce ourselves to them.  We were looking for a medical physician to refer some of our patients to and were wondering if that office would be interested in seeing some of our patients.  The catch was that we would only refer them our patients if they were open minded to chiropractic care.  To our surprise, my staff member was informed that their office ‘doesn’t work with chiropractors.’  Why not?  Well, it turns out that while the physician’s assistant in the office is very open minded, the head doctor is vehemently anti-chiropractic.

Over the years, I’ve discover that the most ardent opponents to chiropractic care I’ve encountered have never even been to a chiropractor.  Most of them have never read any research or even know a chiropractor.  All they know is what they’ve heard, what they gleaned from some casual third party interpretation, what they saw on some expose, or, more insidiously, what was taught to them erroneously in school.  Yet, they offer advice on chiropractic care as if they are an expert on the field, doing both a disservice to chiropractic and, more importantly, to the patient who now loses the potential benefit that adjusting may have offered them.  The blind truly leads the blind.

Here are a few of the objections I’ve encountered over the years and their simple reasons why they are simply nonsense:

1.        Chiropractic is Dangerous – Really?  Chiropractic is dangerous?  So, the reason that chiropractic malpractice rates are a mere fraction of the Medical profession means that chiropractic is dangerous.  I once saw a statistic that showed that adverse drug interaction and hospital errors account for so many deaths annually, that it’s the equivalent of a 747 full of people crashing every day in the United States for that same time period.  I can tell you that if a commercial airline were actually falling out of the sky every day for a full year, there would be a national emergency.  Yet, chiropractic is dangerous.  You see, the average E.R., urgent care, or family physician only sees those very few people who may have had a rare complication to adjusting.  They don’t see the millions who get well in a chiropractic office.  So, they base their opinion off their limited exposure without a complete picture.  Their assessment of chiropractic care is not based off the healthy patients who feel great that, frankly, no longer need medical services.

After all, how many people has chiropractic killed?  How many people has chiropractic even injured?  In a century of chiropractic care would we even match the adverse reactions and deaths of one year of traditional medical care?  Just look at the AMA or CDC annual morbidity and mortality statistics.  Sure there are risks to chiropractic care.  There are risks to everything in life, but they are small and, statistically speaking, very remote, especially when compared to other healthcare options.  And yes, there are side effects.  You might sleep better.  You might have more concentration.  You might actually not get sick this year.  You might not need your medication.  I think you get the idea.

2.       Chiropractic care is for back pain only – Well, you may not realize this, but the first documented case of a chiropractic adjustment for the treatment of a condition was NOT for back pain.  It was for hearing loss.  In 1895, D.D. Palmer  applied the first adjustment to the upper back of a deaf janitor named Harvey Lillard.  Miraculously, his hearing was restored and the chiropractic profession was born.  Unfortunately, I think even some of my colleagues forget this little piece of our history.  We are not just back doctors.  Of course, there is more complexity in the story but there is little debate about the effect that nervous dysfunction can have on health.  It’s simple physiology.

I agree that our profession often subjugates the power of spinal adjusting to back pain treatment, but true spinal adjusting and maintenance has far more potential.  Relatively speaking, back pain is quick and simple.  Helping a patient realize their full health potential is a longer, complex journey, not a destination.  I see in my office that my wellness care patients don’t get sick like their friends, they sleep better at night, have more energy during the day, and are just healthier overall.  And, I am not unique in this observation.  There is more to a healthy spine and nervous system than just pain management.  An aspirin can manage your pain.  An adjustment will help improve your health.

3.       Kids shouldn’t be getting adjusted – Last time I checked, kids have spines too.  No, having a spine isn’t something you get at puberty or once you graduate from high school.  You have a spine from birth.  Spinal hygiene is about maintaining full spinal function.  It’s about preventing spinal decay and maximizing health throughout a person’s life.  Your spine can decay just like your teeth.  The difference is you can replace your teeth but you’re stuck with the same spine for life.

What’s the first trauma you ever experienced?  I would bet heavily that its your own birth.  Pulling and twisting and trying to push and pull a much larger baby through a much smaller opening would traumatize even the fittest of newborns.  I would argue that some of the trauma of childbirth can even haunt a person for their entire life.  Why?  Because their parents were told that adjusting is just for “back pain” and “kids shouldn’t be adjusted.”  In a society where we seem to be getting more obese and sicker with chronic illness, despite amazing advances in medicine, I think it’s time to change our approach to health.

I’ve even heard that adjusting kids is dangerous.  Are you telling me that a kid can take a fall from a 6 foot jungle gym and take off running without a pause where an adult would easily break their arm, but a pediatric spinal adjustment is dangerous?  Are you kidding?  We need to start getting real.

4.       Chiropractors are not real doctors – I once had a medical doctor tell me, to my face, that he wouldn’t refer his patients to someone who calls himself a doctor but only got his degree in a weekend course.  What a jerk!  In almost every state in the United States, chiropractors must have both a Bachelors Degree and a Doctorate in Chiropractic from an accredited chiropractic college.  So, essentially, a chiropractor has 9 academic years of education, the equivalent of a medical physician.  That doesn’t even include the doctor who chooses a specialty or board certification.  Chiropractors are required complete a national board examination and state exams.  They are also required to fulfill continuing education requirements just like their medical counterparts and are licensed by a State Board.  A chiropractic license is not just handed to the doctor after taking some internet classes.  It takes years of study and discipline and the term “doctor” is not used without merit.

5.       Chiropractors are ‘quacks’ – You don’t see this one too much anymore but I just read an article about how a state association in Texas that was trying to halt a run for congress by a chiropractor because he was a “quack.”  Besides being completely unprofessional, and that association should be ashamed no matter what discipline it is, I think the label needs to be put in perspective.  Dedicated hardworking chiropractors work every day to not just placate symptoms, but make an actual difference in the health of their patients.  We not only work to improve spinal and nervous system health but work to improve the general health of the patient.  We help improve nutrition, modify lifestyles and re-introduce a patient to exercise.  Rather than just covering up the patient’s symptoms with chemicals, our discipline works to remove obstructions to the body’s inborn, innate healing processes, helping the patient to maximize their health potential.  We track our patient progress, follow up with continuing care, and encourage prevention.

In this era where chronic illness is on the rise, “traditional interventions” only detect disease once it’s occurred and even then only offer symptom control by chemically altering bodily processes.  That’s not health.  So, the condition continues to progress but at least the symptoms are decreased and the condition is more difficult to measure.  I guess that actually working to improve a patient’s health and healing potential is now quackery while symptom control is now health.  The world has truly become upside down.

6.       Chiropractic is not scientifically based – The biggest area where I see this claim is from the traditional medical field.  Now, I’m not sure if they feel threatened by chiropractic care, but I really haven’t come across another procedure in all of healthcare that has more efficacy and research to support it than the chiropractic adjustment.  It has clinical control trials, peer reviewed articles, retroactive case studies and has been put to the test for years.  Moreover, colleges and institutions have been trying to poke holes unsuccessfully in the chiropractic model for years.  Consistently, adjusting comes out on top and the research proves the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of chiropractic care.  Chiropractic is here to stay.

Anyone who says that chiropractic is not science based has just blatantly exposed the fact that they are not staying current on their research and have no idea what chiropractic is.  If they were, I don’t think there is any way they would discourage adjusting.  And, shouldn’t every family physician who, more likely than not, has many patients treating with a chiropractor, be fully informed on all the healthcare choices their patients are making or may potentially make?  Or, is it better to guide that patient with less information and make poorly informed health recommendations?  A patient shouldn’t have to suffer because their doctor doesn’t know, or worse, refuses to learn.  Their doctor needs to know chiropractic.

I once was doing a health fair and, being normal mild-mannered myself, was taken aback by a physical therapist who decided to get into an argument with me in front of a crowd about how he didn’t believe in chiropractic.  I’ve since discovered this to be commonly taught to therapists in school.  What a shame!  I was met with a few sly grins when I explained that “It was a good thing, then, that there are piles and piles of research out there to support what I do and people don’t have to rely on just your opinion when deciding to see a chiropractor.”  Chiropractic care is not some fringe healthcare choice.  It’s based on accepted physiology and is backed by research.  Now, if only more healthcare professionals would actually read the research or, at the minimum, give chiropractic a shot themselves to see if it works.  I’ve been blessed to see many medical professionals as patients over the years and have changed many minds in my office.  If only we could expose every medical professional to chiropractic care.

Spinal adjusting is safe and effective for all ages when performed by a chiropractic physician.  It takes years of schooling to learn the techniques and years of practice to hone adjusting skill.  Not just anyone can adjust a patient’s spine with the skill and expertise of a chiropractor.

So, the question becomes, again, why isn’t everyone being adjusted?  Well, the answer is simple really: lack of education and fear.  Unfortunately, many of the professionals that people turn to for their healthcare decisions really have no idea what a chiropractor is, what we do, or how chiropractic works the way it does.  As a result, chiropractic care, which may be the solution the patient really needs, is dismissed outright out of ignorance.

How much success has been lost to fear?  Fear of trying something different?  Fear of trying something new?  Fear of thinking outside the box?  Fear that it won’t work?  Fear that it will?  The problem is, you may never know because you’ve never tried.

We are facing an unprecedented healthcare crisis in our country with skyrocketing costs, increased prescription drug use, and rising rates of chronic illness.  Isn’t it time that we reconsider what health is and what it’s not?  Shouldn’t chiropractic care be at least a consideration in every healthcare regimen?

In my opinion, with chiropractic care, the potential is high, the risks are low, and it should always be attempted first, before more invasive procedures.  Is chiropractic a panacea of wellness?  No way!  Chiropractic care makes no promises and has no guarantee.  But, it is should be included in the infinite options you may not have even considered.  They say that the biggest risk may be not taking one.  I mean, what might you actually do if chiropractic care worked for you?

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