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Where Did All the Chiropractors Go?

Would you go to jail for chiropractic?I applaud Greg Stanley for so eloquently expressing a growing tension felt by many practitioners in his recent Dynamic Chiropractic article “The Sustainability of Chiropractic” Greg is a fellow non-DC, spending a similar amount of his life in service to the chiropractic profession. He may have overlooked an important distinction in his assertion that we may have an oversupply of DCs.

There may be too many DCs. But there are far too few chiropractors.

The difference is illustrated by the curriculum of most chiropractic colleges that issue Doctor of Chiropractic degrees. Embarrassed or ashamed, most have eschewed virtually all references to the spiritual, metaphysical and philosophical tenets on which the profession of chiropractic was founded, relegating it to a perfunctory overview during the first trimester. It is quickly forgotten as students get steeped in the mechanistic worldview of what is largely a medical education with some instruction on spinal adjusting. What today’s chiropractic colleges disgorge, if students fail to receive any off-campus input, is a fearful, debt-ridden spinal therapist with a cookbook approach to treating neuromuscular-skeletal complaints.

“Green books? What are those?”

“Innate intelligence? What’s that?”

“Reggie Gold and Jim Sigafoose? Who are they?”

“Intention? Why does that matter?”

Safety pin cycle? Never heard of it.”

“B.J. Palmer? Wasn’t he the wacko with the one cause, one cure?”

Yes, they have a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, but they may not be a chiropractor. They may be highly educated, but they see the body as just a collection of parts. They may have a highly developed left brain, but they see chiropractic as bones and muscles rather than nerves. They may know spinal anatomy, but they reject the peripheral and whole body effects of nerve interference. They see the physical, but overlook the spiritual.

A far larger problem is their inability to explain chiropractic and how it’s more than just medicine “lite.” It appears that most chiropractic colleges, careful of being perceived as trade schools, see their responsibility limited to churning out graduates with good enough credit to pay the tuition and adequate cognitive skills to pass the board examinations. And while lip service is paid to helping new graduates be successful, most efforts are woefully inadequate. In fact, this is the most common complaint among new graduates.

While recently touring a new outpatient clinic at one of the chiropractic colleges, the tour guide boasted that they were adopting a hospital-style approach to patient care. Students will no longer be responsible for generating the new patients necessary to get their required numbers. Instead, they will see patients who show up during their “shift.” This will improve institutional throughput, but severely cripple graduates when they subsequently attempt to open their own practices.

A previous generation of chiropractors went to jail for practicing chiropractic. Today, I wonder how many DCs would. Chiropractors trust the body’s natural recuperative ability and risk being ostracized from the mainstream—in fact, want little to do with the mainstream. Chiropractors are vitalistic. DCs tend to be more mechanistic. Chiropractors decry the idolatry and mass hypnosis that places faith in doctors, drugs and the FDA. Chiropractors are proactive. DCs are reactive. Chiropractors are feral. DCs are domesticated. Chiropractors are willing to make waves and take an unpopular stand. DCs want to fit in and be accepted.

Chiropractors recognize that their very right to practice, written into the law of virtually every jurisdiction, is granted on the assumption that chiropractic is a separate, distinct and non-duplicative healing art. During the last 20 years we’ve seen a growing pull from those who wish to blur this boundary. Whether from the MUA crowd, the Chinese medicine folks or those who believe that the ability to prescribe Motrin and Advil is what limits the cultural authority afforded “real” doctors. Assimilating into the allopathic mainstream is merely begging to board the Titanic, which while still afloat, is taking on water.

As third party reimbursement implodes and becomes increasingly reserved for serious, catastrophic health problems, practitioners who are unable to make a compelling case to patients that chiropractic is valuable enough to pay for out of their own pocket will leave the profession, solving the apparent oversupply problem. Which raises the question: Can the chiropractic profession even exist without the “price supports” offered by insurers? If not, then perhaps the chiropractic critics, skeptics and quack busters were correct all along!

The solution isn’t dabbling in weight loss, smoking cessation, nutritional counseling, anti-aging or other helpful, yet marginal support fields. Instead, the solution will come from more DCs becoming chiropractors. Because while there may be too many DCs, there’s a shortage of chiropractors. And with more chiropractors, not only is chiropractic sustainable, it would be unstoppable.

Comments (22)

Taryn Romain (chiro student):

As a chiro student, who is suffering through all this evidence-based science garbage (for lack of a better word), I am soooo excited to read this.

This is an amazing piece and I can't wait to show it to my teachers.

Ps I bought an original 1948 Stephenson green book a couple of weeks ago, such a shame that this kind of material is being unseen by new generations.


I couldn't have said it better... and I AM a chiropractor!

Keep up the GREAT work! Straight Chiropractic will survive (in some form) as it is IMPOSSIBLE to completely kill the TRUTH.

Chiro Kirk McAnsh

James Milliron ChiropracTOR:

Bill, It is so difficult to see PCC go down the street of mechanism. Gaylen Price must be rolling in eternity. Sad, sad, sad. James Milliron ChiropracTOR

Jay Korsen:

What an interesting time we live in. I have practiced for some 17 years swaying back and forth from principled chiropractor to "medipractor" and all points in between. When I heard an inspirational talk at D.E. some 12 years ago (while running 5 offices), I came home, threw away all the therapeutic modalities and proceeded to change my practice over night to a "straight" or "principled" practice. Guess what happened? I nearly lost everything I had and all my patients. For the next 11 years, a yearned for that straight approach but financially I was scared to change. The Irony is that today, the insurance companies have emboldened me to switch to a private pay, principled practice. As their co-pays have increased above my total private pay fees, effectively they have left more and more people "uninsured for chiropractic". Today, we only accept one insurance company in my office and I'm sure that won't be for long.

My point is that I think our profession is going to be forced, financially, to go back to our roots. Back to chiroprac-tic. Back to what works and has kept our profession alive. Back to our philosophy and away from allopathy. Gone are the days of becoming a chiropractor to make a "killing" and here are the days of making a living and making a difference in people's lives.

Christopher Stuart:


Chiropractic philosophy is ridiculous and arrogant to suggest that the human body needs a 6 year educated individual to access (indirectly) it's "vitalism" vis-a-vis the spinal column to achieve their maximum potential as a human being.

To suggest that Beethoven would never composed works of genius, to suggest that Woodrow Wilson would have never formed the League of Nations, to suggest that Bohr would have never come up with an atomic model because some misaligned or malfunctioning bone was potentially interfering with their expression as human beings is simply preposterous.

Personally, I'm not scared or embarrassed of chiropractic philosophy; it's just plain wrong and flawed in construct and the schools are absolutely correct to relegate it to the history books.

You know. . .maybe sometimes the schools, full of "scholars", know a thing or two?

Or is chiropractic's repository of knowledge and enlightenment locked away in the minds of practice builders, with the only key being my credit card number and a seat at the Holiday Inn?

As far as subluxation, my patients need a diagnosis that they can take to the bank. Going to another health care provider (and they will go) with a diagnosis of "I gotta a tough case of subluxation" will yield them nothing.

I make no apologies for practicing in concepts based on anatomy, physiology, and pathology.

I'm sure "philosophy-talk" makes for good "patient pow-wow" sessions and maybe even makes them show up for more "pow-wow sessions" (who knows? I'm sure it's possible) but personally, I'd rather just stick to the health issue at hand and focus on bio-structural and biomechanical problems and leave vitalism, that entity that seperates us from water and some minerals, to religious scholars.

If I had wanted to be a religious scholar, I would have enrolled in a religious program. I don't practice the technique, Chiopractic Metaphysics.

Finally, I find it curious that most people chose to focus on Greg Stanley's unpopular assertion that there may be too many DC graduates and readers ignored his second unpopular point entirely, that EXTREMISM (business and philosophical) has equally contributed to the "perfect storm" brewing.

(but in a way, your article solidifies his point)

It seems like moderation went out with Rush Limbaugh.

I mean really. . .who's moderate anymore?

In that, perhaps you would feel EXTREMISM is a good thing - I do believe the extremes will survive the PERFECT STORM, but certainly that will mean less chiropractic will be administered.

Maybe the battle cry of the extremes should be:


There's a famous Interstate paved with good intentions. . .or so I hear.

I have to agree with Bill Esteb and his conclusion that “the solution will come from more DCs becoming chiropractors. Because while there may be too many DCs, there’s a shortage of chiropractors. And with more chiropractors, not only is chiropractic sustainable, it would be unstoppable.”

As a practice management consultant/coach I often times ask doctors to put themselves in their patient’s shoes. In my report of findings I tell the doctor they need to get 80 adjustments over the next year and we will help them reach “optimal health.” You can eat what ever you want, smoke and drink whatever you want, stay stressed out, not exercise or continue to play rugby seven days a week, hell you can skydive without a parachute for all I care. As long as you get adjusted 80 visits over the next year we will help you reach optimal health.

I then ask the doctor how that sounds. The usual response is, “Pretty ridiculous!” And from my perspective, it is! The question is what is our intent? Is our intent to help people out of pain or help people towards optimal health? Obviously, our course of action will be different depending on our intent. Whether we deal with patient’s lifestyle, their neuro-emotional components, etc. chiropractic has plenty of amazing techniques and procedures to help our patients towards optimal health!

John Raymond DC:

I won't miss the chiropracTOR. Dogma, pseudoscience and chiroevangilist should wither on the vine. That we are forced to follow the ideas of one man, stating change is bad, is absurd.

Shall we keep telling patients they will die if they don't come in three times a week for life?

A ChiropracTORs clinical guidelines are what their consultant tells them makes the most money.

Why is it that when one practices as an ethical, rational, science-seeking doctor, they are being "medical"?

So being intelligent is the opposite of being a chiropracTOR? By the responses here, I guess so.

You are all chirowacKOS, IMO.

Jeffrey Slocum D.C.:

Bill, Great article, I think the distinction you make is appropriate, I call it the ordinary versus the extraordinary. The men and women who fought not only for our profession but for their freedom were true examples of extraordinary people with a firm understanding of the responsibility that came with the degree Doctor of Chiropractic, had the courage to fight for what was right, respected the patients rights to have access to true potential by the expression of innate intelligence, had a compassion to serve with integrity, and lead this profession that I love from relative obscurity to the second largest health care model in the world. This happened because they were brave, disciplined and absolutely certain about the power of Chiropractic to save lives. It is the lack of these qualities in todays individual Chiropractors or as you put it DC's that will cause the professional pool to become shallow and ultimately lead to a rough landing. I think that many people in the audiences are starting to see through the thinly veiled facade that our "leadership" is putting on. I truly believe that today's Chiropractors are ready to take leadership in their own hands and all they need to know to be successful is that it is the purpose of the Chiropractor that is the important part not the process of Chiropractic.

Nice article. More important a true view of the current situation.

The only thing missing is a more technical view. No matter what the technique used, old time chiropractors adjusted the entire spine each visit.

They recognized that the body is a single synchronized functioning unit and all parts affect all other parts so they adjusted subluxations where ever they found them.

Have neck pain? Sure they adjusted the neck, but also the thoracic and lumbar spine and the pelvis too, wherever they found subluxations because they knew, and the profession seems to have lost the idea, that every part of the spine affects every other part. Therefore, those neck pains might be the result of subluxations elsewhere in the body.

In the schools today they teach too much of the medical model; if the neck hurts only look at and adjust the neck.

I noted this would be the downfall of the profession in the 1980s and am sorry to see it happening.

Dr. Jesse Jutkowitz

Lisa Purdy DC:

This was an interesting article and I agree with the ideology as a whole, yet I also believe that we all have a right to practice and care for our patients as we see fit. Patients will gravitate to the chiropractor that fulfills their Health needs. I’ve been in practice for 21 years and I've seen many "Big Timer DC's" go from "up-down inside-out" to Footlevelers and vitamins. As soon as they decided to use auxiliary income generators in their practices all the sudden it's ok. Personally, I only adjust and educate my patients about the subluxation, using Patient Media teaching tools, but God Bless other Dc's who choose to do otherwise. Here's an Idea lets all quite trying to tell everyone else how to run their practice and just take care of our own business.
Submitted with Love, Dr. Lisa Purdy

Thanks Bill for a great article. Heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, allergies, asthma, degenerative diseases...all increasing. At a time when the medical model is failing so many patients, there has never been a better time for chiropracTORS. The public is searching for a way to better health. 21 years after graduating from Chiropractic College, I am excited more than ever to go to my office each day! What a privilege it is to serve our patients through true chiropracTIC. By the way, patients know the difference!

Gerry Shigekawa, D.C.:

It is so refreshing to see a convergent evolution of the "big idea" coming from outside the chiropractic profession from notables such as Bill Esteb, Bruce Lipton,and Greg Stanley. I did not have the privilege of hearing in person the
"real deal" from D.D.Palmer or B.J. Palmer, but their words came alive through the teachings I received from Drs. C.S. Cleveland and Carl Cleveland, Jr., while I attended CCCLA. I was also privileged to hear Dr. Virgil Strang at one of our student assemblies while I was in chiropractic college. At Cleveland Chiropractic College, instead of the "Green Books," we had "Red Books," from which we took our material for 3 years of philosophy. The Red Books were written in the contemporaneous verbiage of early 20th century, and, at first, as students, we thought of these as rather outdated, compared to those voluminous clinical texts we had to for our clinical courses in anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, and neurology. I still have all four volumes of the Red Books, and I find myself referring to these more often than the clinical texts. At first, concepts of universal intelligence, innate intelligence, and educated intelligence seemed outdated and juxtaposed to all the "scientific" concepts of biochemistry, physiology,neurology, pathology, and diagnosis. As students, we could not see through the artificial and synthetic biases of the "mechanical" and bio-molecular view of life and health. Our "healthcare" system based on these concepts is failing to deliver answers to the patients with chronic degenerative diseases. Systems breakdown, systems fail, but philosophy will prevail. Thank God for the Bill Estebs of the world who keep us chiropractors centered on the principles of chiropractic so that we can "walk-and-talk" the chiropractic lifestyle.

Thomas S. Brodar, D.C., L.C.P.:

Wonderful article, great insight to the situation and the response has been appropriate from a dedicated small group. The problem has been us and the answer lies within us. Why have we for so long fought among ourselves? Why haven't we pushed ahead with the "Big Idea" that was laid at our feet? Why has one of the best chiropractic recent philosophy books ("The Secret") been written by one outside of our profession? Why has the book "The Field", written and doucumented by an author outside of chiropractic been so well received outside of our profession? Why haven't we participated in the science research going on at the public university level dealing with the concepts of quantum physics, laws, principles and mechanics? Why haven't we embraced the federal funding available for the needed documentation and research requested into the BIOLOGY OF MANUAL MEDICINE. There are groups out there screaming for what knowledge we hold and yet we are afraid to venture out of our own professional domain and to interact in a larger public doamin. If what we have been taught is correct, if what we are practicing is accruate, if the results that we are seeing attained in our offices are justified -- then why are we unwilling to step forward and boldly proclaim them?? Are we ready to put "The Big Idea" to the scrutiny of public view and research. If it is time, as the other brave authors have found outside of the field of Chiropractic have shown us, then it is time to put "it" to the test. I actually believe what I was taught, what I have seen before my eyes for the last thirty years of practice and actually feel it is my time to step out from behind the curtain and to have others verify what it is that resonates within me. My avenue will be from outside of our profession to help crystilize and define what it is that we have been doing. The answers are going to come from the invesigation into the world of quantum mechanics, physics, laws, properties and principles. These are the concepts that were attempted to be instilled into us and as a group we failed to comprehend - prior to the development of quantum concepts. Our forefathres were light years ahead of their time and as a group we could not comprehend them so we ignored their lessons. Now others have picked up where we have failed to go. The truth will go on, only the torch bearer will change.

Linda Olsen-Nadspal:

Hip-hip hooray...finally somebody is saying something....I had the opportunity to work with and learn from some great principled chiropractors and keep close to me those I have come in contact with over the years.

I agree keep the chiropractors close to you, but don't forget to speak what you practice, keep what BJ, Sigafoose, Reggie Gold, Tom Pasterski and others spoke about. Read the green books, and stick to your convictions.

And don't forget to keep the students you have sent to chiropracitc college, keep them close, encourage them in the principals you showed them and give them opportunities when they graduate. The only way to keep the flame alive is to nuture and feed it.

Dennis Keenan, chiropractor:

Thanks for a great article. I think Bill Decken is right on with his assesment of the state of the profession. If ever there was a best kept secret, true chiropractic is it.

Right on!

Personally, I do not know where the DC's exist. All of the chiropractors that I ever talk to (and I talk to a lot) talk about principled chiropractic. Where do the DC's live? Do they only live in the boardrooms of the insurance companies, schools and regulatory boards? Are they the ones deciding how the chiropractors should practice while the chiropractors are busy saving the world with what is true and right? I don't think DC's actually practice. The students that graduate with the idea that they will be a DC usually don't last because...

1. The public wants chiropractic (not half-baked medicine) and

2. Insurance companies are more interested in saving money than lives.

It seems like the profession is going through another change, the DC's of old are slowly dying out and the new, young breed chiropractor is rising to the top.

Ellen Thompson:

I am a student at the college that "boasted that they were adopting a hospital-style approach to patient care". I must say that it is not a place where I enjoy spending time. I do not see that I will be able to lay my hands on enough patients to become competent at what is taught in the college but not practiced in the clinics. It disgusts me that they are selling out so willingly to third party payers. It is commonplace now to hear CMT/manipulation as the term for adjusting. Manipulation....puhleeze. So many in this profession seem so anxious to have that almighty stamp of medical approval. I've always thought that the further from their approval, the better the thought, action, or procedure. I am not a manipulator. I do not offer therapy. What I do is light-years ahead of what is offered by the "gold standard" in this country. I adjust.

All the chiropractors are there if you look, however, the reason you do not see them is because of the huge yellow page ads, non-chiropracTIC information in rags and ridiculous commercials used in our profession.
That which you put your focus and energy on grows.

Find your chiropracTIC brothers and sisters out in the profession and stay in contact with each other, via phone, email, whatever means necessary...

Speak the truth and the truth seekers will find you! We live in a world surrounded by coaches and practice management ads in every rag & magazine out today. Start an ad inviting chiropractors to dinner/lunch. Meet at local bookstores/coffee shops/malls/libraries and sit for an evening of discussing, fellowship and encouragement. As a young chiropractor (with an old soul!), I believe the way to find the chiropractors is to call for them and have faith - If You Ask, It Is Given (Law of Attraction). They are out in the world serving for the pure sake of serving and do not get sucked into discussions that focus and use the pure, wonderful energy within them for a search that only exists in someone else's perception. Remember that which you put your attention on grows.

We (chiropractors) are here serving humanity and the wonderful gift of Universal Intelligence that permeates the very being in which we live.
Speak the truth and the truth will come to you, including fellow chiropractors and patients with our belief system - they are there in the world - be true and have faith. To all of my chiropracTIC brothers and sisters, plant the seeds for our children's children generation. Don't view the world with "as is" glasses, but THINK & LIVE THE BIG IDEA! Much love and appreciation.

Reid E Thompson, DC:

I practiced as a small-town chiropractor in rural Montana for over 20 years. During those years, I saw everything from 'bad backs' to rodeo injuries, intestinal adhesions with blockage, kidney stones, fractures, abcesses, cancer, heart failure, nosebleeds, sports injuries, work accidents, and just plain wear & tear - in short, a real family practice with the chiropractic adjustment as the unifying element.

I used to tell my 'strong man' patients the story about the water and the rock. The rock looks like the sure winner, but... come back in 10,000 years and the water is still running, and the rock has turned to sand.

There are limits to time and matter. When you're hurt and tired, and the arthritis has gotten bad enough, you pick your fights carefully - with all due respect to "bring it on" - and - at the end of the day, an NSAID or a muscle relaxant or a cocktail become a welcome respite - all due respect to "the chiropractic lifestyle" folks.

Truth is, the 'legacy' doctors and their patients are all gone. I coined the phrase 'legacy patient' for those folks who had, in their lifetimes, either been to or could have been to one of the jailed chiropractors. Our profession's "300." If you ever adjusted these people, you know what I mean. If we accept Greg Stanley's view that "happiness is when reality exceeds expectation", then these patients' expectations tempered and strengthened our views of what chiropractic outcomes should and could be.

One of the long-term trends that was certain to bankrupt chiropractic over time was the hiring of new grads to teach in the colleges. Not unlike a swimming coach who had never gone into the pool, these often well-meaning bureaucrats now maintain a strengleholdhold on the profession in many of the schools. For physically disabled chiropractors like myself, there is virtually no way to translate years of experience into 'emeritus' chiropractic teaching status. You must either start at the bottom (good luck!) or have enough cash to start your own consulting & management company and hope that it all works out.

Having crashed and burned one last time in a multi-disciplinary clinic (which in the end, had no discipline - lol), I am writing to you from China, where I resume my second career as a teacher in the University here. I will always be a chiropractor - per Kafka, this was carved too deeply into my soul to erase. I will always see the world through this filter. It is a good filter; I see no need to change it. Having saluted chiropractic's Ceasars again and again (Ceasar, te morituri salutant!) it is time to take my leave. I wish my true remaining brothers and sister in chiropractic well.

Reid E Thompson, DC
Zhanjiang, Guangdong, China

I thought the piece by Stanley was interesting although a bit of a stretch to imagine a "perfect storm" scenario in chiropractic!

As a non-DC and observer of the profession, my view is that the best thing for the chiropractic profession is oppression, obstacles, fear of extinction etc. Movements only grow when persecuted. Look at the Christian faith--it's growing fastest in parts of the world where it experiences the greatest persecution.

For the sake of the profession, I say bring it on! It forces chiropractors to be fighters.

Steve Anson
New Jersey Chiropractors
Website Developer

Tony Russo:

Wonderful Passage Bill,
It pin-points exactly where our profession is today. I also read Greg Stanley's passage in Dynamic Chiropractic. So where do I stand? I don't know. We have to understand the merit in both arguements. Because there is merit in all arguments. It's just a matter of where the preponderance of merit lays. I just wish I could consult with some of our long gone hero's, the likes of BJ, "Reverend" Jimmy Parker, my old partner Dick Bray. What would they have said? Well, barring that, I do what I've been doing, having a patient-based practice and giving the chiropractic message and surrendering to a higher cause.

William Abbott D.C.:

Fantastic! I consider myself a chiropractor and in fact I go to great lengths to differentiate myself as such. In fact the only reason that I used the initials D.C. after my name was to tell you that I am indeed a chiropractor. In my opinion D.C.'s or chiropractic physicians have severe inferiority complexes. I am a chiropractor who lives the chiropractic lifestyle !! To me, that is the true test. Not whether you can afford the tuition or pass the board exams, but do you live the chiropractic lifestyle. That is what makes you a chiropractor. Almost anybody can earn those two initials, but do you live the true chiropractic lifestyle?

William Abbott

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From August 29, 2007 6:41 AM

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