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The Symptom Sleight of Hand

symptoms.jpgMy dad has just been diagnosed with lymphoma. It’s the same thing my mom died of 17 years ago.

As I contemplated researching his disease so I could suggest some action steps from a natural/vitalistic point of view, it suddenly dawned on me what a trap symptom treating actually is. Finding the “problem” and fixing it, is a mechanistic paradigm.

For example. If your lawn mower or some other mechanical device isn’t operating properly, it makes sense to uncover where the breakdown is occurring and fix it. Is it getting fuel? Is the spark plug producing a spark? Thankfully, it’s a logical checklist and fairly short. Get enough experience with small, internal combustion engines and you can diagnose and repair them quickly.

This strategy doesn’t work well with living organisms. In fact, you can become easily distracted by a patient’s symptoms and come to believe that that is their problem!

This is a simple misdirection of your attention. Like the white-gloved magician who uses one hand to lead your eyes away from the business he’s conducting with the other, symptoms have the same effect. “Look over here!” they scream.

Do you fall for it?

Yes, that’s where the patient’s current problem appears to be manifesting, but symptoms can have about as much connection to their real problem as a dog’s bark has to the fact you’ve accidently stepped on its tail! The “problem” is at one end of the dog (tail), but the symptom (bark) manifests at the other.

Patients who are suffering from chemical or emotional stress can have a wide variety of symptoms. If it’s low back pain, it’s tempting to imagine that their low back needs an adjustment. It may. But it won’t eliminate the emotional stress of not feeling supported in a marriage, resentful of their 45-minute commute twice a day or whatever. If it were merely mechanical, one or two adjustments would do the trick. And sometimes it works out that way. Great. When it doesn’t, and even if it does, seems to me you’d want to take an inventory of the stresses they’re experiencing in their lives. Because their symptom isn’t the problem. It’s the person with the problem that’s the problem!

Comments (1)

Dr. Dan Hestera:

Great article Bill and thanks for what you do!I'll never forget hearing a much older chiropractor talk about how patients would "hold" their adjustments much longer 40 years ago when he first started practicing. The stressors of this world that we ALLOW into our lives are the true cause and in this day and age we have at least 10 fold the stress. So if we chase down symptoms we will have to adjust virtually everyone 100+ times a year yielding minimal change. We need to change the way we practice chiropractic as compared to 40 years ago. We need to improve our wellness skills as doctors. That doesn't mean changing the name of our practices. It means truely addressing the CAUSE. Remember the CAUSE? Physical, emotional and chemical stress! Break out those green books and look up the three T's. If we don't have the skills and training to help people change, manage and minimize the stressors in their lives, then it is our duty and responsibility to seek out and acquire those skills. If we as chiropractors change, our patients will change and our communities will change and health paradigms will change etc...Until then, a majority of us chiropractors are simply bone-bending, symptom-reducing allopathic-like doctors.

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From June 29, 2008 3:03 PM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 29, 2008 3:03 PM.

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