There’s a difference between what you believe and what patients believe. You may have noticed that. This discrepancy is what is used to justify the patient education overtures in most chiropractic practices. Granted, most so-called patient education is merely ineffective outside-in patient “teaching,” but the objective remains the same: cause patients to acquire a new meaning for their symptoms and the value of using chiropractic to address them.
By failing to see subluxation as a short-term survival strategy; a defensive posture resulting from the body’s best efforts at accommodating threatening levels of physical, emotional and chemical stress, far too many chiropractors have fallen for symptom treating. They address the subluxation and rarely investigate the cause of the subluxation.
This corresponds nicely with the patient’s beliefs: “I’ve got a pinched nerve in my back. Will you move the bone and take the pressure off the nerve please?”
And the trap is set!
Some will scoff at what follows, considering it needless semantical hair-splitting. Or the musings of some zealot who is out of touch with the practicalities of every day practice. If so, guilty as charged. But I assure you this, ignore the distinction that follows and you’ll find few patients willing to pay for their care, disappearing when their increasingly meager benefits are exhausted.
When you practice medical chiropractic, that is, specifically addressing a body part, you give little reason for patients to continue their care beyond the relief of their presenting symptoms. When you practice allopathic chiropractic, your insightful diagnostics, brilliant assessment and golden hands are the hero. When you practice “fix-me-please” chiropractic, there is little need for effective patient education.
Struggling chiropractors rarely see their model of chiropractic as being the root of their troubles. They think it’s the economy, their staff, their procedures, their report or some other worldly cause. Nope. Sure, those things can be factors, but if you’ve blurred the distinction between chiropractic and medicine (insurance companies often do), then you show up in a medical practice that is hobbled by a lack of social authority. Big problem. Not much fun.
You’ve probably heard the cliché, “Get the big idea and all else follows.” That’s what I’m talking about. If you’re simply whacking spines and on a search and destroy mission to eliminate subluxations, you may be working with a small idea. As in, “Get the small idea and who knows what might happen!”
Symptoms of practicing a small idea include:
Spine fixing. Sorry, you don’t fix spines. The energy you apply at opportune times and places is used by the patient’s body—or it isn’t. But if there’s going to be any correction, especially lasting correction, the patient will be doing it, not you.
Subluxations are bad. Good? Bad? Is a fever good or bad? Is brown hair good or bad? Good and bad are convenient labels, however what we call a subluxation is just a symptom. Is the annoying sound from a smoke detector good or bad? Well, yes and no. Remember, we live in a universe governed by the Law of Cause and Effect. Symptoms are amoral, neither good nor bad.
I’m responsible for results. This brings down more chiropractors than post-review audits. Most small idea practitioners blame themselves when the patient doesn’t respond in the number of visits inappropriately “sold” in advance at the report. Instead of being curious about what the patient is or isn’t doing to enhance the healing process, they blame themselves! Nice ego.
Ignoring the cause of subluxation. Most chiropractors admit that subluxations are the result of physical, chemical and emotional stress. But they rarely ask the patient which one or ones of the three are responsible for their current health issue. Even fewer will ask if that stressor(s) is still present in their life.
You can help a lot of people with artful spine whacking. Or at least you used to. My guess is that when patients would bail their chiropractor out of jail 50-60 years ago, it wasn’t because they missed a good spine whacking. Instead, chiropractic was seen as a whole body health discipline. Sure, their chiropractor accessed the spine, but it was with a different intent than restoring proper curves or reducing a “spinal booboo.” They had to advance a bigger idea because there weren’t insurance companies to reduce a patient’s financial responsibility or return-on-their-investment concerns.
Kinda like today.
Okay, so I’m begging. Please become interested in the patient’s life, not just their spine. Show up with the intent of helping reduce interferences to their inborn capacity to self-heal. Address their spine because of its potential for making whole body changes. Give all credit for success and incremental progress to the patient. Make sure they understand that you and your hands aren’t the hero, but the innate ability to heal given them by their Creator is. Make you and chiropractic small. Make them big. And communicate these distinctions tirelessly with your words, your reports and your walls.