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You’ll See It When You Believe It

ghostbusters-logoApparently the “Tastes great!” “Less filling!” debate within chiropractic rages on, pitting the evidence-based-scientific-give-me-proof-med-heads against the anachronistic-paleochiropractic-subluxationophiles. (I didn’t make those up. They’re terms extracted from an actual email exchange between chiropractors!) Each points an accusatory finger at the other, assigning blame for what ails the profession, their practice or the sacred cow of “public perception” about chiropractic.

What’s so amusing, and at the same time tragic, is that neither party in this isometric, how-many-chiropractic-angels-can-fit-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument is capable of convincing the other. Neither can win. However, both can lose, if nothing more than the time wasted while having this self-indulgent exchange.

Actually, this debate has little to do with chiropractic.

The profession of chiropractic may serve as the battlefield, but this is part of a far larger struggle. This isn’t the argument between the mechanists and the vitalists I’ve addressed elsewhere. This is a spiritual battle.

Oops! Is there such thing as spirit? After all, we can’t seem to measure the spirit with instrumentation or the five senses, perform double blind clinical trials or publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. Even with the best Hollywood props from a Ghostbusters movie, the spirit, that invisible force that animates the world, that certain something that vacates with the physical death of the body, refuses to be measured.

Does this mean the spirit doesn’t exist?

At the risk of being overly simplistic, it boils down to one’s worldview. Do you believe you were fashioned by a creative, omniscient God who spoke you and this world into being? Or do you believe that you and your ancestors were created by a random lightening strike on some primordial pond scum and with enough time, ignoring the Law of Entropy, became increasingly organized?

Start here. Choose one. Both require that you believe something. (If you want to be politically correct and live a life filled with contradiction, you can choose to believe both stories!)

Your reality will pretty much fall in step with your belief. If you don’t believe tension to the nervous system along the spine can have whole body effects, you’ll never see asthma or fertility cases. If you believe that birth is a natural process and couldn’t possibly produce spinal and nerve dysfunction manifesting as colic, parents of newborns will shun your practice. Because you don’t believe it, you don’t see it.

It reminds me of the famous Henry Ford quip. “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

Closer to home, a chiropractor friend attended a Sunday evening service at his church in which spiritual healings were to take place. It was fascinating to watch until up hobbled a woman that he had been unsuccessfully treating for low back pain. Within minutes she was bounding off the stage with delighted improvement.

That can change you. It did him. Or he could have chosen to dismiss it, believing it a fluke, a coincidence, a placebo or something else to keep his precious notion of the world intact.

My experience has been that those who need “proof” rarely get enough of it or of sufficient quality to satisfy them. “The sample wasn’t large enough.” “I don’t respect the journal it was published in.” “They didn’t have a control group.” “The study was merely a meta analysis.” “The researchers were biased.” “The lead author was a chiropractor.” And on and on.


To keep your construct of the world intact (and congruent with the creator/pond scum belief), you can choose to ignore the messy emotional and spiritual realms when dealing with a person’s health. However, prepare a good excuse for explaining why a patient with a gorgeous cervical curve, complaining of headaches, doesn’t get improvement from your thrusting, toggling or twisting. Or why back pain patients exhaust their insurance benefits as you ineffectually pound on L4-L5, conveniently neglecting to uncover that the patient hates their job and feels unsupported at home.

Patients aren’t mechanisms or collections of parts. Isolating the spine from their lives, their worldview and their emotional reality so you can heroically treat their joint fixation, their spinal lesion, their subluxation, their pain syndrome or whatever you call your particular bogyman, is the practice of medicine. For which chiropractors are not licensed. Neutering chiropractic, by removing the spiritual and metaphysical elements because it’s “unscientific,” may be seem sophisticated, progressive; even enlightened. In the process, it has blinded some of the brightest, most highly educated in the profession.

At least, that's what I believe. What do you believe?

Comments (4)

Tony Russo:

Just finished talking to the new doctor in the office about this exact thing. Just handed him this article. Just saw him slid it to the side and go back to whatever website he was on... Ugh.

As always, you are out in front of the curve of common thought. It seems clear to me. God created physical beings, then breathed into them the Breath of Life, which can be interfered with causing lack of health, but also released, allowing the being to regain health.
Perhaps there really is an Enemy to our souls (Devil) who would want to take this amazing health approach away from people.
But if we really do believe in an all-wise, all-knowing Father who is in charge of all that we see (and don't see) it would be to our best interest to know Him and trust Him more than our state boards, politicians or technique masters.
Simple is good...Thanks for the reminder-

There is definitely a bigger event happining in patients than the mechanistic bone moving idea--- In my life this was established without an empirical study, rather over 10 years and thousands of patients seeing a resolution of many many conditions unrelated to back pain. I appriciate Graeme's sentiments-- Unforturnately the only ones that are currently saving our profession are the patients that continue to seek chiropractic despite the others out there trying to imitate what we do, and the ones in house trying to disprove what we do. We should all go out an give our patients a big hug and a thank you for choosing chiropractic.

Hi Bill,

I don't struggle with my own understanding of what chiropractic provides for each person I adjust. Sometimes I catch myself focusing too much on the spiritual, sometimes on the mechanical, and when things are really working I am simply providing great adjustments without thinking at all!

I was proudly raised in the chiropractic philosophy mindset. I found it frustrating growing up hearing about the infighting. I found it exhausting hearing about which technique was superior in school. I find it difficult now watching the grenades being thrown underneath our own chiropractic tent.

All of this, while MD's are trying to limit our scope in Texas, PT's are trying to achieve the right to manipulate in Washington State and the cervical adjustment (and chiropractic as a whole) is being attacked in Connecticut.

There is not way that every person in every profession sees eye to eye. The other professions simply hide it better, and have created serious power in numbers.

Chiropractors have chosen to have it be every man for himself, or possibly, in each tiny niche every group has carved out.

I do find it difficult when other chiropractors do not see why we actually exist. How we are separate and distinct. How and why we are different from every health profession.

What I do know is if some peace and unity isn't made, we might not have a profession to fight over.

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From February 10, 2010 7:33 AM

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