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Losing Faith

rabbits-foot.jpgFrom time to time, (last week was one of them) I learn of chiropractors who are suffering from cancer or some other serious disease. Or who die at some unreasonably young age. Sometimes it’s the spouse of the chiropractor who has been afflicted. Whether chiropractor or chiropractic spouse, both have usually been long time beneficiaries of chiropractic care. In other words, they received chiropractic care and surprisingly, got cancer.

Based on the incredulous tone in which this revelation is made, it’s almost as if the chiropractor believes that receiving chiropractic care was, well, a guarantee that such a malady would never strike them. The shock of learning that they have cancer is compounded by the evidence that their chiropractic rabbit’s foot has failed them. As you might expect, this produces a crisis of faith in the principles that they have been applying to patients.

While I lend a more-than-compassionate ear, I suspect their sudden disillusionment with chiropractic is based on some wrongheaded beliefs about what chiropractic is and isn’t, and what it can and can’t do.

Careful that you haven’t fallen for these. They’re often evidence of pride; even arrogance:

“It’s all in my golden hands.” Like some modern Betty Grable, who was the first woman to insure her legs for a million dollars, many chiropractors have more than a healthy infatuation with their hands. Besides brushing up against idolatry, it has a “these-are-my-lucky-socks” mentality to it. Sure, you have skillful hands. And no, I can’t do what you can. But they’re just hands. The hero is the patient’s inborn capacity to heal, given them by their Maker.

“I’m fixing their spine.” Their spine is not broken. In fact, their spine is responding perfectly to the circumstances of their car accident, their six-pack-a-night lifestyle or feelings of a lack of support in a loveless marriage. Careful before you rush in to overpower the patient’s innate response with your well-intentioned thrusting. If there’s going to be any fixing, the patient is going to do it by resourcefully using the energy you supply to help right itself after realizing that the stress is gone that resulted in the adaptation we call subluxation.

“All you need is chiropractic.” What is this fixation with reducing this incredibly complex human organism down to just one thing? As in, all you need to do is get adjusted. Or eat organic foods. Or avoid meat. Or mediate. Or drink some multi-level marketed fluid. Or exercise 20-minutes a day. Or get no less than 8-hours of sleep every night. Or lower your cholesterol. Or take these supplements. Or whatever. All it takes is one thing and perfect health will result? That would be convenient, but such a childlike belief is breathtakingly simplistic. And unlikely to be true.

“Chiropractic addresses the cause.” Recent studies suggest that most chiropractors acknowledge the subluxation. That’s good news. However, what many overlook is that subluxation is merely a symptom. Reducing subluxation by thrusting, tapping, touching or some other intervention, can be helpful but it’s still symptom treating. What has caused the body to assume the defensive position we call subluxation? Is that stressor still present? Granted, such questions may lead you to messy areas of the patient’s life, but then, that’s where true healing is usually needed.

Chiropractic is great. The principles are gorgeous. It has and will (regardless of the economy) help millions of people. But it’s not a cure-all and it isn’t a substitute for attending to dozens of other aspects of good health and hygiene. Remember the old chiropractic cliché, “Chiropractic adds life to years and years to life”? It may not be true, according to this article published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association.

What do you think?

Comments (8)

Michael Soucy, DC:

God, I love the emotional healing and growth I get from going to my acupuncturist, in fact its why I go! Just as subluxation is ignored by the main stream, emotional causes of subluxation are ignored by the majority of chiropractors. If you consciously choose not to deal with it that's fine. There have been many great chiro's who haven't. But if you really want to make a impact on more people and bring your skills to a new level, then you can't go wrong with addressing this major cause of subluxation. And its not about being psychologist either, there are many chiropractic techniques that deal with it. Definitely a worthy cause.

KISS... please people when you go to an acupuncturist do you expect an emotional healing experience, or acupuncture? When you go to a nutritionist, do you expect to be adjusted or get nutritional advice? When you go to a gym, do you expect to get some sleep, or a work out? Now there is nothing wrong with an emotional healing experience, an adjustment or sleep, the question is, when someone goes to the chiropractor what should they expect?... What do you think?

Now, I don't believe that we need to just accept the public's view of chiropractic, but what can the majority of chiropractors accept as the common uniting element that the public can expect as they walk thru the door? Maybe an adjustment? The rest is definitely good for the patient, but in reality, a DC should be able to choose to work with subluxation only without feeling guilt.

I am not saying that correction of the subluxation is some sort of cure all panacea, but it is a largely ignored extremely important part of health. If a chiropractor chooses to focus on this, I think this is a worthy cause.

Dan Wallace:

Now I'm really at a loss!!! Do I need to be a spritual healer, a mental healer, or an 'add infinitum' healer--where 'true' healing really comes from??? Talk about messy!! Someone needs to really get a grip... Interfering with mental impulses is always harmful and correcting that interference is always a plus. Let's stay with what we should know. I think we have enuf problems already. Good grief...dc,sh.mh,aih--whoops

I’ve encountered a lot of religious zealism in our profession and continue to be amazed at the collective myopia when it comes to mixing belief with science, and belief wins. Now that the integrative model has been shown increasingly to affect good outcomes for patients, because it approaches chronic illness with a multifactoral system of treatment, why are we insisting it is the chiropractic adjustment that is the most important? It is including everything, but in the right order or concurrence.

Systems biology is able to explain the matrix and networks of different systemic malfunctions. Paying attention to spiritual, emotional, structural, chemical, toxic, nutritional, and tissue status, environmental factors, genetics etc, requires an expanded inquiry into the "person" who is your patient, and what's going on in his or her life, i.e. the big view, looking at the patient's multiple concerns, stressors, and commitments.

A patient's sense of purpose, belonging, love life, worship, beliefs, all are part of what we need to know in order to help. Chiropractic is a wonderful and helpful part of the puzzle, as is all the other hygienic advice we can offer to support better nutrition and exercise, but we must work in concert with all those other talented providers in our communities to create well-rounded support network for our patients whose lives are out of balance. It's not just the spine, "stupid,” it's the whole picture.

Because of the nature of our practice, and that we get to know our patients and participate in their lives typically over a long span, we are blessed with the opportunity to do great work, and impact their lives and those of their families. But it isn't about what we want to happen, or what we believe is best, it is about being in an inquiry ALWAYS, into what matters most, to the patient. Supplying something to improve that one area of his or her life, by having been a "listening" for who the patient is attempting to be in his or her life, rather than talking to the patient to convince them of what we think is important, is the first step to granting another human...."being.” There might not be another person in his or her life, neither pastor nor spouse, nor children or neighbors, who has ever stopped to listen and been truly present.

That's love. And that's what being a doctor is all about. Creating a space for a patient to be the way he or she is, or is not, allows the miracle of change and healing. We are not just mechanics. Each doctor, if the patient has faith in him or her, is actually a Shaman, and without that faith and confidence in the doctor's intent, nothing much will come of the encounter.

We hope, change for the better because of our interaction, listening and intention is what will happen. Just a few thoughts. Time for a paradigm shift.

Dr. Krahl

Michael Soucy, DC:

The subluxation can be viewed as a metaphor for an interruption or interference in our consciousness in our being. It is a useful short-term survival strategy, but through the long term can negatively influence our health. In other words, create symptoms.

As chiropractors, we help bring our nervous system’s attention back to these areas of stored stress and finally deal with them. This process of expanding awareness can lead to increased expression of our being, improved health and growth.

It reminds me of stories of those great souls, who though they are close to physical death, shine with a light from within. Nobody gets out of here alive, but you can make a lot more of the journey and chiropractic has a big role to play.

I have found since switching to a tonal approach that often we do need to be councilors or at least simply a friendly ear as adjustments release all sorts of old unknown emotional wounds. It’s funny how we are usually ready to deal with the physical phenomenon that can occur after adjusting, i.e., soreness, spasm, fatigue and all sorts of retracing, but when it takes the form of an emotion, our first instinct is to go to an open room layout.

Healing is about growth. And the 800 lb. gorilla in the treatment room is very emotional. I suggest going with it. If you suspect an emotional component to the subluxation(s) simply ask the patient how their stress levels have been. You may touch someone on a very deep level. Nothing to be afraid of there.

Brian Deal:

The timing of your postings amazes me. My sister passed away yesterday as a result of colon cancer. 42 years old. Very sad. But...
At one point BJ palmer said something to the effect that he should have developed chiropractic as a religion rather than a healthcare discipline because people might have been more able to believe in it. We all wish there would be a 'Magic solution" to all of our trouble. We might like a formula. There isn't one. It would be great if we could say we are chiropractors and everyone 'got' it. "Removing interference to allow life an opportunity to express itself as well as our matter will allow." My sister was checked and adjusted. It didn't cure her but it gave her hope. It gave her quality moments.
As to the article in the canadian journal it is my belief that the majority of chiropractors in the world do not get checked regularly. Just a hunch. Thanks Bill.

Kreso Jug:

I don't think its really that cut and dry, spine mechanic or healer? What I took from the above message was 1)EVERYONE should live subluxation free. 2) Being subluxation free doesn't gurantee health, it is just one more amazing thing for people to add to thier life along with eating and exercising and resting.. etc. And number three being subluxation free is going to mean different things to different people. We all have people in our office who have come with a symptom wanted relief from it, but have recieved something even better from chiropractic

Tony Russo:

I think this article presents more confusion for me rather than resolution. So are we supposed to be counselors or Chiropractors? But this just may be a process we all have to go through before we acheive resolution, I guess.

WDE: Spine mechanic or healer. Pick one or both.

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From March 11, 2009 8:09 PM

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