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Principle vs. Practice

autobody.jpgSince it’s a human foible to look outside one’s self for the causation of our problems and challenges, it’s not surprising that many chiropractors look outside themselves and their practices for the cause of their underperforming businesses.

Patients, who conveniently blame their genetics, divorced parents, the job they hate or an unlucky break for whatever injustice they face, are joined by chiropractors who blame the economy, the weather, their location or the attitude of their front desk staff.

In other words, few chiropractors blame their understanding of chiropractic principles as the root cause of their struggling practice.

Before you grab the torches and pitchforks, consider the distinction between the principles of chiropractic and the practice of chiropractic. The principles describe the why. The practice describes the how. Most chiropractors have spent enormous amounts of time and money attempting to unlock the secrets of practicing chiropractic. Little, if any, on the principles of chiropractic.

Struggling chiropractors rarely observe, “I bet the reason my practice is struggling is because I’ve tried to deliver chiropractic care based on my limited vision of chiropractic. The reason I’m less than successful is because I’ve fashioned chiropractic in my image, rather than conforming my practice to the time tested principles of chiropractic.”

The economy, weather or office location are far much more convenient!

But the fact remains. Spend a few moments conversing with a chiropractor who has the capacity to help more people (but isn’t), and you’ll uncover huge deficits in their understanding, appreciation and, dare I say, reverence for the principles on which the profession of chiropractic is founded. And if they have the understanding, then they lack the ability (or courage) to speak the truth in the presence of patients. The naïve assumption that all one needs is the skill to move bones and the results will speak loudly enough to have a thriving business is a serious miscalculation. Especially as the generosity of insurance companies wanes.

Yet, the technical aspects of chiropractic are rarely the problem. Oh sure, there are the occasional less-than-artful adjusters who struggle. However, a more common and easy-to-overlook issue is lacking a grasp of the deeper meaning and significance of the chiropractic intervention. Without it, technicians limit chiropractic to a mechanistic procedure no different from an auto body shop pounding out the dents and applying a fresh coat of paint—hardly a compelling reason to drop $35 (or more) three times a week for who knows how long in your office!

If you find yourself at the helm of an underperforming business that seems to be increasingly irrelevant to your community and shunned by inactive patients who long ago should have returned due to their inevitable relapse, here are 10 questions that could serve as fodder for some introspection:

    Why does the body create the phenomenon called subluxation?
    Are subluxations good or bad?
    Are subluxations causes or effects?
    Of the three causes of subluxation, which is the most common?
    What does an adjustment do?
    What does it take more than one adjustment?
    How can techniques that don’t involve thrusting into the spine work?
    Why does it appear that chiropractic sometimes doesn’t work?
    Is chiropractic about bones or nerves?
    Can people have subluxations without obvious symptoms?

Most chiropractors rarely wrestle with these. I know, because when I pose them, many chiropractors respond with either a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look, or hem and haw in such a way as to reveal their unpracticed language.

“Great Bill, you got me. But what does that have to do with the gaping holes in my schedule?”

If you have difficulty answering these questions in a way that makes chiropractic compelling, I can guarantee that your staff is even less persuasive. Which tells me your community is clueless. Which reveals that you’re not getting out of your office to tell the chiropractic story to strangers. Which means that people in your community show up in your practice solely on their culturally-acquired notion of what chiropractic is, namely an expensive treatment for neck and back pain. Which is something that few people are budgeting for these days.

Simply put, if you really knew the principles of chiropractic, you wouldn’t keep it a secret, blame the usual suspects for your declining numbers and hold your private pity party waiting for the phone to ring. Get the big idea and all else follows, remember?

Comments (4)

Tony Russo:

Hi Guys,
Thank you for the very well thought responses to my challenging questions. Very good. Very introspective.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year from Windsor, Ontario (same latitude as Rome, but certainly not the same climate)


Once again a great post. We as a profession need to realize that the biggest thing that we are giving to people is the philosophy that not only health, but happiness, life, love and everything else (including being successful in practice) come from the inside out not the outside in.

To answer Tony's first question. The reason that "we" need to go through all this introspection and motivation is because we are trying to strike at the "heart of darkness" in most people. People love outside in and have been brainwashed for so long that they don't even question that false belief. Marriage going bad.. just buy her another ring. Kids doing bad at school just tell them you'll buy them a TV. This is how I grew up. Thinking that this was right. Changing this behavior in people is hard and sometimes down right discouraging. We need to support each other and stay positive. And we need to check ourselves to make sure that we are keeping on the right path.

2.Chiropractic in 5 years? Same confused place. Just less new chiropractors.

3. Yes it is worth it. But things need to change. The young grad needs to be told before hand that they are not graduating with a medical degree. They are not going to be able to hang a shingle and have a thousand new people in the first month. I feel that our education needs to be stripped down. Graduating with a 150+ thousand dollar debt, with a lot of information in our heads that will never be used again, and then having to go into more debt to open up an office is not a financial option for most people.

And somehow despite all the soul searching, penny pinching and self doubt chiropracTIC is still here. Changing both our lives and the lives of our community forever and more importantly for the better!!

Dr Travis:

Thank you again Bill for the last posting on Boxing Day. It is a great connection to blast into the New Year full of motivation and hope.

I have to give my thoughts on the questions that were posed by Dr. Russo as I have been asking myself these questions as of late. I believe that this is the reason for me visiting this website almost daily. Also, I have found that as Bill said, that people are so trained in the conventional model of (sick care) that we need to be positive, and motivated to deliver our message to a community of skeptics. As Canada has a socialist model of sick care, it is also a challenge to get people to understand that their conventional model is failing in promoting and achieving health. Getting them to pay out of pocket for something that they feel entitled to get for free, is also a challenge that you need to be sharp, positive and prepared mentally for.

2. Chiropractic needs to be changed by Chiropractors (in Canada anyways). I find a lot of backstabbing, and sneaky practices amongst some Chiropractors towards or against other DCs. Instead of cutting each other down from Inside-Out, maybe we should be spreading the "Inside-0ut" principle of Chiropractic to our community!!! My colleagues that practice this way, help the most people, and are the DCs that have the practice of their dreams, or are creating the practice of their dreams.

3. It is worth it in my opinion. For all the waiting around, all of the talks, tests, tuition money, and the marketing, when you finally get through to a patient and they realize how powerful their own body is. It is worth it for that adjustment that you deliver to that nine-year-old child who could not sleep through a whole night, and after his first adjustment, he gets nine full hours. It may not be the most dramatic case ever, but for me, it is all worth it.

Thank you for this website, I look forward to reading it every week, as long as you keep posting.


Tony Russo:

After reading the above, I have a few questions for you:

1) Why do we Chiropractors have to go through all of this introspection, motivational thinking and positive attitude, to still make a modest living?

2) Where do you see Chiropractic in 5 years?

3) Is it worth it? Is it worth going through all those years of schooling, of not making an income. Only to graduate and find that you have to fight and claw in order to...not make an income? Is it worth recommending Chiropractic as a profession for our children?

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From December 26, 2008 9:23 AM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 26, 2008 9:23 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Monday Morning Motivation.

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