Apparently 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?