Patient Media

« Monday Morning Motivation | Main | Monday Morning Motivation »

Is an Adjustment a Treatment?

treatment.gifAnother example in the Sloppy Language Department is the chiropractors who say that they “treat” patients or go into the “treatment” room. Naturally, if you wish to treat patients, you’re free to do so. However, you might want to be mindful of what it means to deliver a treatment and what it means to the relationships you have with patients. Looking past the implication of this word choice may invite unwanted consequences.

A treatment constitutes ministrations designed to alleviate a symptom. Taking a pain relief medication to suppress the symptoms of a headache would be considered a “treatment” for headaches. As is adjusting a patient for the purpose of relieving their headaches. Both are treatments.

“Yeah, so? Anyway, that’s why patients show up in my practice. What’s the big deal?”

Actually, it’s a huge deal. Since the words we use reveal our heart, our intention and our worldview, using the word treatment in lieu of “care” or even “adjust,” could be a telltale sign of one or more of these errors:

1. It implies a mechanistic-linear-recipe-cookbook model of healing. As appealing as it may be, this misguided notion suggests that we’re merely a collection of “parts.” It creates an overly simplistic “if this, than that” approach to patient care. As in, if patients have headaches, you’ll need to adjust their cervical spine. Likewise, if patients have low back pain, you’ll need to adjust their lumbar spine. Further, this linearity virtually ignores the chemical and emotional stressors or even the spiritual circumstances of the patient. Having not attended chiropractic college myself, I’m uncertain how this perspective is formed, however, my guess is that many believe that the aberrant biomechanical spinal pattern that is the focus of so many chiropractors is the problem, rather than merely a symptom.

2. It sets you up for assuming credit (or blame) for outcomes you're powerless to control or predict. Talk about ego! When you tell yourself (and the patient) that you’re “treating” them for X, Y or Z, you’re suggesting that it’s you and/or your intervention that produces the desired outcome. In the “Pride Cometh Before the Fall Department,” this is a broach of the highest order. First, if there’s going to be any healing, the patient’s body will be doing it. And if so, the self-healing capacity installed by God will be responsible. The fact that you know where to give their body a releasing nudge, is great, even valuable, but you’re hardly the star of the show.

3. It minimizes and reduces what chiropractic intervention is capable of producing. Treating an obvious ache or pain, while perhaps the “first right answer” is hardly the highest use of chiropractic. When you help reduce nervous system tension in the patient’s body, just about anything is possible. Perhaps this is why those in chiropractic with an analytical/mechanical bent never see any so-called “miracles.” If your paradigm is pain relief, then visceral and organic cases don’t resolve. Maybe, because patients with visceral and organic cases don’t show up in your practice. Turns out, the “I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it” crowd have it backwards. Instead, when you believe it, you’ll see it.

4. It blurs the distinction between medicine and chiropractic. While there are powerful forces attempting to promulgate the idea that the success of chiropractic depends upon seeking and receiving the approval of medicine, this is a bad idea. I’ve covered this elsewhere, but just remember your very right to practice, written into the licensure laws, relies on chiropractic being a nonduplicative, separate and distinct healing art. As the symptom-treating model embraced by mainstream medicine proceeds to bankrupt us, if chiropractors position themselves as the antidote to this wrongheaded thinking, there is the hope.

Treat patients if you wish. Take credit for the results your adjusting technique produces if you dare. Use the words treat or treatment because they’re handy, patients assume that’s what you’re doing, it's not worth the bother of being more rigorous with your language and it’s become a difficult habit to break.

But sloppy language has a price. And many chiropractors pay dearly for it because it obscures the truth. Consider the advice of the March Hare to Alice:

"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.

"I do,” Alice hastily replied,” at least I mean what I say, that's the same thing, you know."

"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "Why, you might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see!"

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Thrive.

Comments (5)

Trevor Winzoski:

Treatment typically entails an ending of some sort... the proverbial comment, "Am I almost done my treatment Doc? Am I almost done? Are some that I've heard more times than I like to admit to.

It certainly tells me that my communication could have been better, or the patient just didn’t get it or both. I've come to the realization that having some form of "how our office works or welcome to chiropractic care or what to expect from chiropractic care" letter in the ROF package that explains the goal of care would be appropriate, essentially giving the patient the information that there is more if they are interested. It would make it compelling by telling them why, benefits, etc... my next goal to achieve!! Does anyone have this created?
Bill do you have something like this?

Just my thoughts.


Philip Horner:

Language in all it's forms is important in communicating ideas, thoughts and intentions.
Words that have agreed definition between parties/people allows knowledge to be shared and actioned with the least amount of confusion, energy and hestitation.

As a mother trains her child to develop beyond 'baby talk', let us as chiropractors not retard ourselves and the public we serve by using words and expressions that are limited to disease-based, treatment-only language of the new patient who entres of offices with no chiropractic experience or understanding.

As chiropractors wanting our 'herd' to grow and multiple beyond relief-only patients, we have the opportunity to define and teach patients the benifit/enjoyment of being wellness clients as we nuture long-term relationships.

Our choice of language is either strengthening or weakening the profession, ourselves and the public. are you defining chiropractic???

Thanks Bill for your clarity of word and thought.

Rick Humiston:

I have had concerns with the term "treatment," because it in my mind it sound as if WE Treat Condition(s). We must stand tall and help keep our profession separate and distinct. Most of the time if someone makes a comment..."Thanks, that treatment really helped me," I try to offer the knowledge that although getting adjusted is a TREAT, we aim to Care for People and that makes all the difference!

Thanks Bill for offering a wonderful forum to express and learn at the same time.

Mike Headleee,D.C.:

I get tired of comparing our language to other professions language. We have always been separate and distinct so our language should reflect that. Let's embrace our simple and powerful message and importance as a profession and be proud of being different.

Tony Russo:

You're right Bill,
1. People didn't follow a cookbook to get into the health trouble they're in today.
2. Credit always feels good. Wait 'til they blame you for making them feel worse. That doesn't feel good.
3. The stories of Chiropractic miracles are fading into the oblivion of insurance coverage.
4. And the most important point of all. We dare go down that road (and blithefully we are) of goveling for acceptance and they'll chew us up and spit
us out. Sadly, I'm not allowed to say what happened to me in the hands of modern medicine. And all the while they chuckled saying,
"Well he's a Chiropractor, he should know better" while I was precariously clinging to life. Thankfully I'm 98% recovered. But, you wanna go down that road?

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

From February 21, 2008 6:00 AM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 21, 2008 6:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Monday Morning Motivation.

The next post in this blog is Monday Morning Motivation.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.