Q: I’m stuck in an area where many patients have been trained that one or two adjustments are all they need. I’m trying to change that but it is a huge daily struggle. Any ideas?
A: This is a common complaint among chiropractors who see chiropractic as something more than a short-term treatment (diet) for a particular ache or pain. It’s a situation often created by chiropractors anxious to please the patient, bill the patient’s insurance company, prove chiropractic works, validate themselves or prove how much they “care” by jumping in quickly and obscuring the larger lesson. In the process, they inadvertently minimize chiropractic, reduce it to a therapy and create a communication problem that the chiropractor down the street (you) has to overcome. “Well, my last chiropractor only needed one visit to fix this!”
So start there. Ask the patient why they think their problem returned. Because after all, this situation is all about what the patient believes to be true.
“If you wanted to lose some weight, how many desserts would you need to skip?”
“If you wanted to become a champion weightlifter, how many workouts would you need?”
“If you wanted to create a new habit, how many times would you have to do it?”
Or, you might take an entirely different approach.
“How long does it take your body to replace the cells in your body with all new cells?”
“I don’t know.”
“Some of your organs and tissues can take up to seven years. But more importantly, how does your body know what to use as a pattern to deposit the new cells?”
“I don’t know.”
“Your body uses the existing pattern of your body as a guide. That’s why it can take more than one or two visits to retrain the muscles and ligaments that support your spine so they’ll retain a new, healthier pattern.”
“Now, I tell that to all our patients, and most of them just nod as you have and it does little to change their beliefs. And no wonder. Their entire life has been about treating symptoms when they show up and discontinuing the medicine when the symptoms subside. So the idea of continuing to get chiropractic adjustments after symptoms go away is a new idea. No problem. All I ask is that if you choose to discontinue your care once you feel better, and you have a relapse like you have now, that you won’t blame me or chiropractic. Just come back in and we’ll start over. Your records will already be here, along with our genuine concern for you and your health. Deal?”
Naturally, it’s hard to predict exactly what a patient would say by posing these questions, but you get the idea. The fact is, your words may or may not make a difference. More important is to communicate a lack of judgment and to let them know that there isn’t any shame attached to ignoring your recommendations. (That’s the hard part.) But keep the long game in mind. What you really want is the reactivation. It may take a series of starts and stops before they “get it.” What’s the hurry?