Lie #2: The chiropractic adjustment has lost its mojo.
I remember when my dad was going through chemotherapy for his cancer. I had suggested that he complement his medical treatment with chiropractic care.
"Adjustments aren't powerful enough to deal with cancer," he explained.
I wasn't suggesting that he use chiropractic to treat his cancer but to bolster his nerve and immune systems.
You can tell that some chiropractors have lost faith in the power of the adjustment by the way they practice. Fewer and fewer practices are relying solely on adjustments. They have added all manner of adjunctive services. You're probably familiar with them:
Granted, many of these procedures have solid evidence proving their value and efficacy. And many are patient pleasers. Not to mention some may even be reimbursable from insurance carriers.
That's not my point.
Adding these additional procedures confuses patients.
I'll never forget the in-office consultation I conducted in New Jersey. The chiropractor opted not to adjust on the first visit in favor of doing electro-muscle stimulation and some other therapies. Patients at the focus group actually thought the therapy was more important than the adjustment!
Maybe part of the issue is that more and more chiropractors don't even use the word adjustment. Maybe that's because they aren't "adjusting" but merely manipulating spinal joints. What's the difference?
Intent matters. So much so that we have degrees of murder (first, second and third-degree) plus manslaughter—all based on the intent of the perpetrator.
Intention is what separates chiropractic from physical medicine. The former attempts to apply energy locally for whole body effects via the restoration of nerve communications between brain and body. The latter has no more implications than adding energy to, say, a dislocated shoulder. The patient is pleased and could care less about the nuance since their experience may be identical. But it's a difference that makes all the difference in the world.
By ambitiously adding energy to their spine in the hopes of normalizing its structure and function overlooks the wisdom of the patient's body that put it into this subluxated pattern.
This is a critical oversight. Bones are static structures that only move when muscles contract. Muscle contract (and remain contracted) when they receive neurological commands to do so. Thus, unless the patient has experienced significant trauma, their spinal pattern has a neurological foundation. Best to be mindful of this possibility lest your "correction" does more damage than good.
If patients show up repeatedly with the same pattern it's likely the physical, chemical, or more likely, emotional stressor is still present in their lives. Until this burden is relieved your adjustments will be palliative at best. Which will probably be better for the patient than muscle relaxers and pain medication, but palliative nonetheless.
If you want to heal you'll want to get to the cause of the cause.
Something I remember from 1981 while attending my first chiropractic seminar has stayed with me all these years: "Medicine is interested in the problem in the person. Chiropractic is interested in the person with the problem."
The result is medical specialists who know a lot about a little. And thank goodness. Because I don't want to live in a world without specialists. You probably don't either. But it isn't health care—even though it's called that.
It reminds me of the seven blind men standing around an elephant who were asked to describe it. The one next to the tail describes an elephant as a whip. The blind man next to a leg thinks it's more like a tree. The one next to the trunk believes it's a snake. And so on. Only in a world of specialists would someone emerge from the surgical suite with the words, "The operation was a success, but the patient died."
I blame some of the chiropractic colleges for the decline of the adjustment. Technique instruction, which used to be the centerpiece of the college curriculum, is abbreviated in favor of ever increasing amounts of medically-oriented book learning. Many students who emerge are afraid to adjust, seeing their main job as referring patients to orthopedists and physical therapists.
Sure, the poor diets, increased stress and the lifestyle choices of today's patients can often make their recovery slower than patients of decades past. Being an advocate of supportive lifestyle changes is part of your opportunity. It doesn't mean patients are available or willing to act on your suggestions. But if they do, they're likely to get better results.
Truth: The chiropractic adjustment, when masterfully delivered at the right time and place can help reduce nervous system interference. These days it may take more adjustments than it did a century ago due to higher stress levels and poor nutrition, but the adjustment has stood the test of time—unlike countless medical fads that have come and gone over the same 100 years.
Bill Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and the co-founder of Perfect Patients. He’s been a regular speaker at Parker Seminars and other chiropractic gatherings since 1985. He is the author of 12 books that explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient’s point of view. His chiropractic blog, in-office consultations, patient focus groups and consulting calls have helped hundreds of chiropractors around the world. His Monday Morning Motivation is emailed to over 10,000 chiropractors each week.